The nights are cooler, the leaves change. Geese gather and swarms of blackbirds fly through the sky in ever-changing shapes.
The males have shed their velvet and the acorns are falling. The walnuts still have a long way to go before they start to drop in numbers, but walnuts are always among the first to ripen and squirrels are busy scurrying around them and climbing their branches to pluck their favorite nuts.
All of these signs point in one direction: archery season. It doesn’t seem possible, but it’s almost here!
In a contradiction of planning and preparation, the deer rifles are ready to go, but I hadn’t fired my crossbow with the season just days away. Well, I planned to check zero two weeks ago, but the range I anticipated using was not available. Dammit! Then a series of other events and a funeral demanded my attention and suddenly the first day was only 48 hours away. Time speeds up as events get closer and closer until you suddenly panic.
Archery season means washing up, unfortunately. All my hunting clothes had to be washed with odorless detergent, dried with odor-eliminating dryer sheets, and then sprayed with an odor eliminator. I really hate doing all this; it is very difficult to keep odor levels as low as possible. Even more difficult is keeping clothes odor free once clean. You have to hang it outside or store it in bags to prevent contamination.
No matter how thorough your odor control is, you can never be completely odor free, so having multiple supports is essential. The wind determines which post you hunt from if you’re smart. From time to time, you’re forced to seek out a less-than-perfect location if others in the camp claim the best one first, but life always deals unexpected cards. Sometimes things unexpectedly turn out for the good, like a dollar coming from an unexpected direction. You never really know.
One of the most rewarding gifts of early archery season can be the weather. With a little luck we will have cool, calm and beautiful mornings when it is a pleasure to be in the forest. Going up to the grandstand in the dark and just sitting there, totally relaxed, watching the dark morning slowly turn into day, hearing the birds wake up, smelling the rich earthy scent of falling leaves and feeling invigorated by the splendor of the sunrise it is a priceless gift.
The peace and grandeur of it all is very moving and can be very humbling. Every day is a miracle and thoughtless human beings often simply take it for granted. It can be a great comfort to our troubled souls to silently witness the beauty and majesty of creation that surrounds us in such a peaceful time. Dawn is therapeutic, restful and calming.
The tranquil, the sublime are healing and wonderful, but underneath it all is a simmering anticipation and excitement. A sauce, so to speak, for the new day because, after all, you are hunting and what can materialize from the slowly growing light keeps you on your toes.
Deer have a habit of appearing out of nowhere. No matter how often you turn your head, no matter how careful your lookout, deer often get very close to you before you see them. I don’t know how they do it, but they do and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been looking extra carefully only to turn my head and look where I had just looked 30 seconds before and see a Buck only 20 meters away.
This is always a bit of a shock! How the hell did he get there without being seen? It’s like he came out of the ground. In a second you are relaxed, relaxed, looking and observing. The next second, your heart is stiff, pounding, hands clenched, mind racing, what to do?
So many decisions to make. Does the deer see you? It’s a good eight points. Do you dare to move? Are there other deer you don’t know about or a deer further back? Of course you are looking in the wrong direction, the deer is so close that it can even hear the rustle of your clothes against itself or the rubbing of material against the tree or support. Take care of your bow, don’t hit it against the support or the tree, why do your breath become short and your hands suddenly sweaty?
Oh no, the deer starts walking and with all the leaves on it will be out of sight in a few more yards. You turn as quietly as possible, quietly raise the bow, but the males now have their backs to you, there is no shot.
Then, moved by a mysterious force, you look to your left. A big dollar, 140 or even 150, is looking down on you. He saw you move, turn and run.
Welcome to archery hunting – not for the faint of heart!