The leaves ran and danced about like children through the sun and up the well worn path. I chuckled as I imagined their laughter. Wrestling and tumbling, running and dancing. As usual, there were chickadees jumping from tree to tree encountering a disgruntled squirrel now and again as the red and the grey sought to winterize their nests.
This was a favorite place of mine in which to hunt. I have had red fox comes near enough for me to touch. I have seen great white owls that had swooped down over my head only to land in a nearby sapling to observe me observing them. I have flushed up woodcock and pheasant and have walked deer sign as I searched the woods for a trophy.
Ah, to hold a gun in your arms! It seemed a part of my heritage. It felt natural to hold one. The weight, the smell, the ritual of loading, firing, and cleaning the gun. It was as though carrying the gun and having it in my possession made me Lord of my surroundings. It was better than having a good looking girl on my arm. The woods were mine to tame, to conquer, and the game was mine to kill.
But, on this morning so many years later, I smelled wood smoke as perfume wafting on the current of warm air making its way up the pathway. The heat of the rising sun pushed the cool air into the submission of the valley. My boots were wet with morning dew and I noticed that I had the dip of a deer stuck in the tread. My attention was brought away from the boot and to the sound of cracking dry timber about fifty yards off to my right. I felt my heart rate rise and my breathing became intense. I wanted to be prepared for a good shot and I raised my arms ever so slowly. I focused and sighted in hopes of catching a glimpse of the great buck that was known to roam this area during the rutting season but was never found during the hunt.
My eyes tightened and were quickly focused on movement to my far right and over my shoulder. He walked ever so slowly, smelling the air and turning his head in search of a scent on the morning breeze. The air was coming up the hill this morning thus making me on equal par with him. He began to move slowly towards me. With renewed confidence in his safety, fifty yards became thirty. Thirty yards became twenty. He was coming directly at me!
I thought, “Man, he’s gonna bump right into me unless I shoot soon”! But I couldn’t seem to shoot just yet. I wanted to see just how close he would come hoping to get the cleanest shot of a lifetime. A shot that would ever be the fodder of campfire stories. Something I would share with anyone willing to listen.
Twenty yards turned to ten. I couldn’t hold off any longer. I sighted and took what I had hoped would be my best shot, perhaps the only shot I would get all season.
The flash of camera startled him like the slap heard on a newborn baby's behind. He just couldn’t believe it! Ou eyes locked and neither one of us seemed able to move. He was five yards from me. He must have weighed in at 220 Lbs and had an eight point rack. I didn’t know what to feel, what to do. Time appeared to stand still.
And then....I hiccuped. I couldn’t believe it! I hiccuped! His head shot up and he turned steeply to his right. In three bounds he was off to where he came from. And as I sat there I realized that I hadn’t drawn a breath in an eternity. I scurried to switch the camera to view allowing me a peek at my trophy shot.
I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “I Fish. I Lie.....The middle finger of my right hand had never spoken as loudly as it did on that day. There it was, in all its glory only a half inch from the camera lens.
Buck? What buck? “Oh Karma, where is thy victory, where is thy sting?” I laughed to myself and walked the trail home. This time, not as the Lord of the forest, but as a part of the forest.