This years Wisconsin gun season was pretty slow up at our camp on Reefer Creek. The largest buck was a forkhorn and only four deer were taken. Some venison for all, but a far cry from previous years. There were no deer taken at all until Wednesday, almost 5 days of solid hunting. What this meant was that there was no sleeping in, big buck hanging on the pole, and a lot more time spent in the woods. Most of that time was spent up in a tree stand, with weather ranging from 5oF and partial sun to a 6 hour snowstorm and 20F temperature drop when the snow ended. I figure I spent about 65 hours in the woods this season, 80% of which was spent sitting in a tree. The question I get asked the most by non hunters is almost always the two part, "So, didn't you get cold and isn't that really boring?".
The cold is actually the easier part to deal with because that's physical. If the hands and feet are warm the rest of you will be warm as well. Insulated over booties, a lovely blaze orange hand muff, and wool, wool, and more wool pretty much handle that cold part. The boredom part is mental and a bit tougher to deal with. The anticipation of the big buck walking past the stand tends to fade very quickly as the sky brightens on opening morning. This means the mind is free to wander without the external civilization sounds and stimulation that bombard us daily. A lot of my time is spent with the mental clutch disengaged, simply sitting there and watching, listening, and smelling the natural environment around me. I generally choose a spot that has a pretty nice view. It's a lot like a long open water crossing in a kayak; the whitewater guys can't understand how it can possibly be any fun without rapids, holes, and eddys but we all know the enjoyment we experience as we paddle along on the big water. I was not alone up there either. For three straight days a porcupine kept me company in the oak tree next to my spruce. He never hit the ground while I was there and for most of the time sat motionless on the end of a branch. Finches and Chickadees also kept me company, since I had my little homemade PET pop bottle sunflower seed feeder next to me. This is not purely altruistic, since deer won't be bothered by motion as much if the birds are flittering around. Bluejays and black, gray, and red squirrels visit as well, and its amazing how a gray squirrel can sound like a deer as it hops through the leaves. Which brings up the principal object of this mission, the deer. Plenty of deer passed by and even posed for some snap shots. I did not see a single antlered buck however, which left plenty of time for the mind to wander when there were no forest dwellers in the immediate area.
I can tell you about two things I did not think about, current events and work. This is after all, a vacation, the best vacation ever if the goal is rejuvenation. No civilization sounds while in the stand and no non relaxing thoughts. Dave's fantasy world is alive and well though. I usually shoot the Boone & Crockett record Whitetail buck, bequeath tons of money from my multi million dollar charitable trust to worthy causes, and enjoy a hot ski weekend at Klosters, Switzerland with Julia Roberts. I also take the occasional nap. I sometimes crawl down to the ground but I usually doze 15 feet in the air, belted safely to the tree, especially now with my new suspension harness system. If I adjust it just right it holds me sitting almost vertical as I snooze, I'm sure for only seconds at a time.
The object is hunting however and the snap of a twig, a doe blowing or buck grunting as they head towards me provides the instant adrenaline that all hunters are familiar with. Never mind that most of them are false alarms. Plus sitting and doing nothing seems to get easier and easier the more its done. I guess like most things, practice makes perfect. As I walked into work this morning I remembered that annual feeling of this being the most disconnected day of the year. Thinking about passwords, remembering conversations, making sense of work notes taken before leaving for the nine days in the 19th century is not an easy thing. But spending those nine days with the quiet, contemplation, and sights, smells, and sounds of the northern Wisconsin outdoors in early winter make it all worthwhile. In fact the computer, cell phone, meetings, and urban ambiance already have me thinking about next deer season.