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I've had a rough draft of this for awhile and I'm not sure it's quite as 'done' as I'd like it to be. I was reading the posts on the 'haunted hunting camps' and decided to work on this a bit more today. Anyway I hope you enjoy.


The Healing Woods

As I sat there watching the remote hillside covered with hemlocks, oaks, and the occasional patch of mountain laurel, my mind just wasn't focused on the task at hand for the day. It was the opening day of the Pennsylvania rifle season and my two brothers and I were at our traditional opening day hunting area. I had set up on another hill in the morning and the action was pretty slow. Around mid morning I decided to head to "his" spot. Although I had mixed feelings about it.

As I made my way, old landmarks brought back memories. The first time he brought me up this hill we had sat on the boulders I was now approaching. I was twelve and we were small game hunting. After sitting there a short while a small forkhorn buck appeared. I told him that was the buck I was going to get the first day and it gave him a good chuckle. He also told me I'd better start practicing more with my .243 if I hoped to accomplish it. Sometimes it amazes me how these seemingly simple little life moments stay with you.

I made my way along the top of the ridge till I got to "the hemlock" as I call it. Suprisingly I hadn't seen another hunter on the walk over. Or maybe I just didn't notice them. It was warm, but not hot out, and even at the slow pace I had moved I still managed to work up a bit of a sweat. I unzipped my jacket and sat down to watch the bench below me. There were very few shots in the distance and none nearby. With the sun shining on me I sat and my mind began to drift to the events of the last nine months.

I thought about that night in mid-February when my father had been admitted to the hospital for chest pains. How we were there that night and were told everything was going to be fine. He was even joking around that night before I headed home. I had no sooner walked through the door when the phone rang. Something wasn't right. I remember driving back that night and hearing my cell phone ring. I was afraid to answer it because I had a sinking feeling I knew what it was going to be. Dad was gone.

I thought about the dawn the next morning after a sleepless night. Words to describe it still elude me. Just a seemingly eerie glow and a deep sense of nothingness within me. I got in my car and just drove, having no idea where I was going. I ended up here at these woods, but never left my vehicle. I just sat and looked out into the hills still in disbelief.

As the sun continued to shine down on me I looked at my fathers favorite rifle in my hands. And looked out into the hills where so many memories were made with he and my brothers. I had yet to see a deer and at the time I really didn't care if I did. It just seemed unimportant to me at that moment. All fall I hadn't really been able to get into hunting.

I was still reminiscing and still in a somber mood when I heard a twig snap on the hill above me. I turned to my right and making it's way just below the ridge was a small buck. It was no more than thirty yards away and I could see it was an eight point. I guess it was just instinct to pull the gun up and for some reason, even before I squeezed the trigger, I had this overwhelming feeling that my father had sent this buck past me. I took aim and squeezed off the shot. The buck went running down the hill, dead on it's feet. After twenty yards he piled up.

My adrenaline was pumping for the first time all day as I made my way to the deer. I admired his beautiful coat and laid my fathers gun against him. I sat down beside him and said my traditional little prayer for the animal. Sitting there looking at my fathers beloved gun lying across the buck brought out a flood of emotions that I had held back for nine months. To say I cried would be an understatement. I probably looked like a blubbering fool. When it subsided though, it felt like this weight I had been carrying around for months had been lifted. There was no doubt in my mind that my dad had sent this deer my way. And for the first time all fall I didn't feel alone in the woods.

During the drag out I felt better than I had in a long time. I wondered as I went along if this was his way of telling me everything was going to be ok and that life goes on. Just before I crested the last hill before the truck I stopped and turned back to face the hill from which I'd just come. And looking out in the fading light I said "thanks dad".
 

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Very nice. Allows me to get in touch with distant memories of my father as well. On the first day of rifle season in 1983 (I was 16 yrs old). While high up in a tree a shot rang out very close. I turned my head and saw a buck fall about 100 yrds from me. A minute later my father came walking up on the deer he had just shot. 4 months later he was gone. I'll never forget that day and many others spent with him hunting and fishing. Thanks for sharing EFTS.
 

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Very touching story , Eye. No doubt your father was there to give you peace . If you did not shed tears , something was amiss . Thanks for the good read and best of luck in the seasons ahead .......Finn
 

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Great story Eye.
I lost my dad about a month ago and am still trying to come to grips of it. I have been wandering what the hunting season will bring when I know he should be in his "hollow" but won't.
 

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A very nice tribute to your Dad, No doubt he was with you and will continue to be, every time your out.

I am a firm believer in the spiritual side of being outdoors. There is something guiding us all, whether it be the spirits of lost loved ones or spirits of hunters past, they are there!!
Your Dad and many others are out there with us in spirit, no doubt! As a member here once said to me," hunting does not die when the participant we know passes", It lives on forever, through us, as a vital part of our outdoor heritage!!

Great read and good luck!!
 

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Very nicely done. Brought a tear to this old grey haired guy's eye. I'm sure many of us have had a similar sort of experience, but you put it into words better than I could have done.
 

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Very touching writing!! A great tribute to a fine Dad who raised his Son just right as this heartfelt thread shares!! These type of Threads are the glue that holds this all together!! Thanks much for sharing!!
 

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Great Story, really enjoyed it. It hit close to home with me, as it has with others. Should really hunt with my dad's gun from now on.
 
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