The rock song kept playing in my head yesterday afternoon as Tracy and I sat watching one of the most beautiful hardwood-covered moraines I’ve ever seen.
This was the first deer stand sit we’ve shared in a while. Our two girls have kept us that busy that we haven’t been able to spend much time in the woods together these past couple of seasons.
Today we were the honored guests of our friends Kurt and Kathy Krueger, their sons Kris and Kim, and their gang of diehard Wisconsin gun-hunters. The plan was to sit in Kurt’s favorite spot, by Kurt’s insistence, and see if one of his campmates could push a deer past us. Both Tracy and I felt truly honored to be waiting and watching for a whitetail to come ambling by.
The rock band Semisonic’s song was ringing in my head, but I tuned it out temporarily to think back on the past 29 Wisconsin gun-deer seasons. There are so many memories, and almost all of them good. Although I’ve since hunted across North America and spent camps with legions of diehard whitetail hunters, I can’t think of a place I’d rather be at the moment. This annual rite of passage is unique. It only spans nine days, and you can set your clock by them. Steeped in tradition that sees boys become men; men become senior citizens; and seniors become beloved souls; these sacred days transcend the hunt itself. These are the days that make us ponder our very existence and celebrate God’s true blessings.
Today is Day 8 of the nine-day hunt, and although there’s one day left, tomorrow’s forecast calls for pouring rain and high winds. In essence, this is will be the last day of this year’s tradition.
"Closing time. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here."
We’re almost a half-hour into our vigil when I turn slowly to check on Tracy. She’s sitting at the ready, eyes darting left and right, scanning the wooded hillside and bottom for any hint of a deer. She senses my gaze and casts her blue eyes upon me. We both smile in unison — her twinkling smile is exactly how I remember it from the first time we met. It instantly melts my heart.
"I think the deer will probably come from atop that hill," I whisper. "This is an awesome spot. Kurt sure knew what he was doing when he put his blind here."
This vigil reminds me of one I had more than 20 years ago with my dad and brothers when we hunted the far northern part of the state one year. Just like today, we didn’t need to exchange many words then. We were serious about seeing deer, but we were equally serious about spending quality family time in the woods.
Then it happens.
"That had to be a deer," I whisper to Tracy. "Get your gun rea…"
I look over my shoulder toward Tracy, and she’s already conceded the deer to me. She has rested her slug gun in the corner of the blind and has crouched low next to me, awaiting my next move.
There’s a flicker on the trail, and a young doe appears. It take two bounds and is suddenly on a main thoroughfare of a deer trail that leads past our blind. Ten yards beyond the deer is another doe. This one is big. Really big.
The two deer, obviously pushed our way by the Camp Krueger crew, immediately relax when they’re on the trail. They’re smart, though. Instead of heading our way, they slink low to the ground and skirt through a patch of thick briars in an attempt to circle back into the drive. I brace my Remington 7mm Mag on the blind’s ledge and lean forward while watching the big doe in my Nikon scope. I had taken my gloves off just minutes ago, and one of them slides off of my knee and drops to the floor. That very slight sound stops both deer in their tracks. It’s now or never.
Finding the doe’s inverted triangluar-shaped scapula in the scope, I center the cross-hairs and squeeze the trigger.
After the drive is completed, Tracy and I walk up to our prize and marvel at her size and health.
"I think we owe Kurt some summer sausage and snack sticks," Tracy smiles.
I smile back. "And a few more jars of your homemade sauerkraut," I add.
"Closing time. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end."