I was suddenly awakened by a noise. Standing straight up in the bed, I was puzzled at the darkness and static-noise coming from the alarm clock on the end table. It was 4:45 am and I was in deer camp.
The nerves and anticipation of the night before the hunt makes sleep a hard proposition. Several hours earlier, I had arranged my clothing on the floor of the camp to aid with the pre-dawn confusion. The forecast was calling for cold mornings. Wool socks were paired with insulated boots, base layers were paired with soft-shell bottoms and a pull-over fleece. My jacket, backpack, hat and bow were left hanging on a nail on the front porch to keep the smells of camp at bay.
I dressed in the dark and headed downstairs. Stepping into the chilled-air, I gathered my gear and began walking slowly to the stand. It was a long walk, mostly uphill, so I continually reminded myself to slow down so to not break a sweat and ruin my chances for staying warm. The night air was clean and crisp as the moon provided enough light to walk. The trek along the old logging road was quiet, but as the sun began showing its light on the ridge, I cut into the woods and was greeted by crunchy leaves and brittle sticks. Walking tip-toed, I found the base of a large maple; my hide-out had been suspended in its branches since a mid-summer scouting trip.
In the dim light, I located the small rope tied to the steps leading to my treestand and attached my bow and backpack to the snap. I paused to catch my breath and began slowly climbing the tree. The climb was long; I’d placed the stand high in the tree to avoid being seen by the deer when they crested the ridge-line trail leading from the fields to their bedding areas. With the safety harness tightened securely, I rested on the treestand’s seat. The pre-dawn wind greeted me as I swayed in the maple tree cooling from the hike and climb. I could hear limbs rubbing together in the forest canopy and an old hemlock was showing its age with creaks and pops as its massive trunk fought against the breeze. I gingerly lifted my bow and pack to the perch and soon after an arrow was nocked and with bow in hand, the show was about to begin.
Bowhunters reserve the best seats in the house, front-center of the stage, with backstage passes to the event and I was proud to be invited to the grand opening. Watching a new day being born high in the canopy is worth every effort taken to get there. With dawn breaking, the actors began their performance. While seated , song birds landed in branches beside me, squirrels made their way to the forest floor to gather, crows squawked at each other as they made their fly-over to get a better look and right on cue Mother Hen Turkey hit the ground and began her morning roll call. At intermission, I was pampered with the sun’s rays warming my face and aromatherapy provided by the freshest scents of the season.
The star of the performance made his way cautiously on stage as the sun brightened his antlers like a spotlight. Entering stage left, he strolled majestically through the scene pausing only to polish his antlers against a trunk of a sapling. As the drama of the scene intensified, I could hear my own heartbeat and feel the rush of adrenaline flow through my body. I quietly eased to my feet and began to draw my bow in his direction. Like well-seasoned performers are apt to do, he decided to ad-lib the script by quietly turning and retreating back up the hill from where he came. Upon his exiting stage left, the curtain fell and the morning performance was over leaving all in attendance yearning for more.
I highly recommend visiting a performance near you. Admission is cheap and right now, it’s the best show in town.