The woods was still and quiet, not a breeze stirred or a branch moved. Even the few birds that passed by were near soundless. I had sat my tree stand since early afternoon, sometimes reading from a paperback novel, pausing every few minutes to scan the area. The sun was setting, down to the treetops now, and deer should be moving. There! In the dark beneath the hemlocks at the edge of the swamp, a movement. As I stared at the spot, the rounded form of a deer took shape. I carefully raised my rifle to scope the form, but it was gone that quickly. Nothing moved, as I studied the darkness of the swamp for long moments.
I had come into camp early on a Friday afternoon, and no one else was around. It was a beautiful November day, the rut was in full swing, so I had a bite of lunch and headed for my favorite tree stand on the west side of the Black Swamp. A small finger of ridge led from the hardwoods into the edge of the swamp, and it was a popular trail for the deer when the wind was right. It was right today, but there was no activity until nearly sundown.
Half an hour passed after I saw that one deer, and light was fading fast. I continued to scan the area, but I knew I must climb down soon and take the trail back to camp in the darkness. Maybe some of my hunting partners would be there, with a warm fire going and a hot meal on the stove.
Finally, I eased to my feet on the stand, prepared to lower my rifle and pack to the ground and climb down. Suddenly, not 25 yards to my left, how he got so close I will never know, a beautiful rack buck spooked and bounded for the swamp. Three jumps and he was out of sight, but he remains etched in my memory forever, in slow motion. As I made my way back to camp in the gathering dark, I reflected on the lost opportunity. Yes, I could have gotten off a few shots, and I might have had a lucky one. Or I might have wounded him and lost him in the swamp. That is not my way. Hopefully, we would meet again, and the advantage would be mine. The chill in the air brought out the sharp odor of the evergreens along the trail and the decaying leaves on the ground. What a successful day of hunting it was…one I will never forget.