THE BEST OF TIMES – THE WORST OF TIMES
THE BEST OF TIMES – THE WORST OF TIMES
A tale of two days in the woods.
The following story tells about two different days of hunting in the woods of Craig County, Virginia. Hopefully the reader will enjoy the stories, but will also come to understand what truly makes a good day of hunting. Many hunters will already be cognizant of a true good day in the woods; but new and non-hunters may learn to what really appreciate in life.
The first day in this story takes place in mid-October 2016, the middle of Virginia’s early archery season. This day begins in a tree stand right at the dawn of a perfect hunting day weather wise. It was clear and cool, but not cold. Nearly no wind all day as it warmed a bit, but it did not get too hot. Even if no wildlife had presented itself, to be comfortable sitting in a tree stand for an entire day with the hunter’s brother brother (Greg) hunting nearby makes for a great day in the woods.
Not too long after settling in the stand, a few squirrels begin to appear. Then, suddenly, a young deer comes down a ridge followed by ten more! Later in the day while the hunter is sitting on a log with Greg, a noise is heard off to the right. After several minutes of waiting without seeing, Greg stays at the log as a circular hike is undertaken to attempt an investigation of the noise. Two large gobblers are viewed running off. Greg hears them, but is unable to spot them. There was also a discovery of an abundance of bear scat and big buck sign in the same area. This is the first observance of bear
sign in the area the brothers hunt. After a lunch break, Greg decides to rest during the afternoon. Just after the tree stand is re-occupied, something is heard behind the hunter and a turkey is spotted. As the bow is raised to draw on the bird, the bow hits a metal hanger Greg had installed to hang his bow when he uses the stand. The noise causes the bird to fly off, followed by five more. Many, many squirrels are seen gathering nuts and chasing each other up, down and around trees. As the sun sets, the hunter reflects on of the events of the day.
If a hunter’s single day involves time with a brother, beautiful weather, eleven deer, two big gobblers, six more turkeys in a different spot, many squirrels, and plenteous bear scat; one could say that hunter had a great day hunting even if there were no harvest. As Paul Harvey used to say, “now for the rest of the story”. Remember the first young deer? An arrow was launched, but it flew over the little deer. Strangely, it ran back the way it had come from, but only a short distance. A second about face led to the deer returning to exact same spot an arrow had flown over it’s back. In the short time period the deer was out of range, a laser range finder revealed the distance was shorter than previously perceived. The second shot sounded as if it was a complete pass-through, usually a good thing. This arrow held the only blood or fur that would be found. This is a hunter’s nightmare. Injuring an animal is about as bad as it gets. The hunter is frustrated, but knows that if a person hunts long enough, this will happen to all hunters of all skill levels.
This second day is the opening day of the Virginia general firearms season in 2016. This day begins seasonable cool. Cold enough to test out recently acquired insulated coveralls. This time the hunting party grows by adding the hunter’s son (Jeffrey). Jeffrey did not hunt last year or any this year prior to this day. Greg begins shooting prior to 8:00 a.m. Jeffrey walks from one end of the hunting property to the other end to assist Greg in tracking the deer (disrupting the hunter in the middle). Their quest did not end as hoped. Greg is now frustrated with injuring, but not recovering a deer.
Greg had a mid-day errand, so a lunch break is taken. While Greg is away, the stands on each end of the property are re-occupied, leaving the stand in the middle for Greg to use if he wants. (He could reach it without disturbing the other stands.) He decides to stay in the house for a bit to get over his frustration of injuring a deer.
The afternoon hunt is much tougher weather-wise. A cold front brings high winds, sprinkles and a little sleet. The hunter had observed no game at all from the middle stand during the more thing hunt. During the afternoon hunt, no game is observed from the stand Greg had occupied during the morning. At least not until about 4:00 p.m. when a large-bodied, wide-racked buck is spotted heading across a ridge drawing closer to the stand. With a sudden turn, the buck goes down a hollow where only a glimpse of the antlers is observable for just a second. The buck is then only partially visible when it stops, but is only about thirty yards away. This is bow range and the hunter is carrying a old Ruger M77 chambered with in .308 Winchester, topped with a Redfield Tracker 4X that is just as old. The hunter is made by the deer before it presents a clean shot. Any experienced hunter reading this now knows that the deer is now gone. The hunter is now highly frustrated and begins to leave before calming down, coming to his senses and returning to the stand. Finishing out the day the Lord provides is only proper. The only game spotted for the rest of the day is a tiny gray squirrel.
With the tough weather, almost no game presenting itself, and no harvest with a prize buck running off, it would seem it was a bad day hunting. However, the hunter got to spend time with a brother and a son. The hunter realized that having seen only four “wall-hangers” during his hunting career, two of the four were spotted on very windy days. Just the opportunity of seeing a buck that large in the wild is a true blessing in itself.
It is an old saying, but a good one: “A bad day in the woods is better than a good at work!” Which really means, if you can be in the woods hunting, you are truly blessed!
P.S. The next morning the large deer is still haunting the hunter. He went to bed thinking about the deer and awoke thinking about the deer!