They say all great couples have great stories about when they first met. My wife and I do, but that’s not what this column is about. It’s about two of my other loves, which are, of course, the same terms as the name of this magazine.
As is the case with most great romances, a chance introduction by a mutual friend began my interest in white-tailed deer and hunting them.
It all started on a cold morning almost 30 years ago. In the pre-dawn darkness of opening day, Dad walked me down a logging road, stopped by the base of a large oak and pointed to an extension ladder.
“Climb up there and sit on that platform,” he whispered. “Don’t load your gun until you’re settled in. And don’t move, or the deer will see you.”
He continued up the road, and I stood there petrified in the dark.
After a few hard swallows — and several long looks upward to the 8-foot high stand — I climbed to my first-ever tree stand vigil.
It took about 25 minutes for daylight to filter through my surroundings, and the woods came to life with chirping birds and crunching leaves. That’s when it happened.
There was something in the woods behind my tree, and it was approaching fast.
My heartbeat quickened and I instinctively froze. I didn’t even dare move my head — just moved my eyes to the side in a feeble attempt to see what was beneath me. Was it a deer?
The next sound sent pangs of terror through my gangly teenage body. It was a scraping-like noise of something digging its claws into the bark of my tree. I remained frozen, uncertain of what was to come.
Suddenly an intruder scooted up the tree and stopped at a branch a few feet above my head and let loose a blood-curdling noise.
By now my heart was in throat, but I still didn’t move … until the interloper jumped on my shoulder.
“Ahhhh!” I shrieked while hopping out of the stand in one bound. The squirrel also hopped out of tree, and then paused on a rock to stare at me.
“Get out of here!” I screamed while kicking some dead leaves at it.
That encounter might have been enough to send some kids back home never to return, but not me. It spurred a meaningful relationship.
Over the many deer seasons that have followed, countless more squirrels have blown my cover in tree stands and ground blinds, but just as many have awaken me from daydreams to alert me of approaching deer. And each of the fuzzy chatterboxes reinforces my love affair with deer and deer hunting.
It’s OK, Tracy understands.