Once again this year I was fortunate enough to make the opener of the deer season on Tug Hill. I don’t believe I have missed Opening Day in over 50 years now, except for a couple of years fighting the Cold War in Europe. Too far to commute.
This year we had one of those rare opening weekends when the weather was perfect: sunny but cool, still some leaves on the trees for color. It is always great to get together with family and old friends, even a few new ones, and enjoy some stories, good food, lots of laughs. The deer hunting is just an excuse for being there, and if you harvest a few deer, as we usually do, it is a bonus. I’ll post a few photos later. Our bud John even had an encounter with a trio of bears, as rare on The Tug as a DEC Officer.
Of course, as I get older, my circles keep getting smaller. I used to enjoy stalking the ridges and slipping thru the swamps, meeting the whitetail on his own grounds. Now I mostly sit in a treestand for a few hours, hoping someone will chase a deer by me, but not really upset if it doesn’t happen.
I know that I am going to hear from some folk who are anti-hunting, anti-meateaters, anti-nature, and all that. Been there and done that. Just don’t criticize me and I will do the same for you. I’m sure I could convert you with an afternoon in the woods on a sunny autumn day, and afterward a hearty dinner of venison steaks with mushrooms, onions, mashed potatoes, and gravy. It just doesn’t get any better, and I hope I can be there for 50 more years, or at least a few.
What really irritates us is the growing number of “hunters” who patrol the rural roads at night and shoot the deer from their trucks. Even that unsportsmanlike activity could be tolerated if they had starving children at home, and they took the venison home and used it. There are too many deer, and not enough hunters any more. But more and more of these night stalkers just leave the deer lie, or sometimes they cut out some choice steaks. The rest remains in the field. Some day we will catch them. It just doesn’t make sense.
Perhaps the idea is to shoot every deer they see and hope that one is a buck that they can hang in the front yard. Antlers are even harder to see in the dark, so there are a lot of mistakes.
It was one of those perfect October days, not too hot, not too cold, sunny and bright. I decided to go in early to my deer stand, located at the edge of one of our Tug Hill farm fields. I took along a Louis L’Amour book, got my rifle and camera ready, and laid back for a few hours. This is the part of deer hunting I really enjoy. After awhile, a big doe and twin fawns joined me, and I watched them cavorting on the field for an hour or so, hoping that the buck I knew was in the neighborhood would join them. Just before dark, a pack of hunting coyotes started to make music in the nearby woods, and my deer eased off the field. Although I knew there would be no more deer today, I stayed until the light was gone, then unloaded my rifle, packed my gear, and climbed down from the stand. As I started the half-mile trek across the fields to camp, I could suddenly hear the hunting calls of the coyotes in the trees to my right, and also on my left. Were they hunting me? Even with a rifle in hand,it makes one feel very alone out there. As an instinctive shiver went down my back and the hairs stood up on my neck, I stuffed a clip back in my deer rifle and played my light around the field, looking for shining eyes. But no, as I stood alone in the darkened field for a while, the melodious calls of the hunters faded in another direction. Some unlucky hare was probably the target this night. A welcome full Hunter moon arose, shedding some light on the field. However, I walked just a bit faster as I headed for the distant lights of the farmhouse.