While my hunting pals spent much of the past two Saturdays (and more than a few other afternoons) out looking for deer, my own personal opening day of deer season had to be delayed a bit due to family and work obligations.
On Monday — not as bright-and-early as I may once have thought necessary, back in my younger, more eager years — I eventually, finally, gratefully headed into those (seemingly) familiar woods, where I’ve spent so much time over the past two decades.
I wasn’t alone. Hunting is always more fun when you’ve got a buddy to share the experience with, and for this year’s opener, my 16-year-old stepdaughter Georgia decided she’d tag along and keep me company. Georgia shoots skeet with her dad, and says she’s quite a shot, but hasn’t taken a hunter safety course and was a non-gun-toting helper on this hunt.
She was in charge of the binoculars and for keeping an open ear for possible deer. And when I went knee-deep in a pile of rotten slash in an old clear-cut, and wound up on my rump after another misstep a bit later on, she was also in charge of not laughing, no matter how ridiculous I must have looked.
She passed those tests with flying colors.
These woods, I may have mentioned, are a familiar spot. At least, I thought that they were. Upon our arrival, while trying to find another friend’s ground blind, I missed the well-defined path down the ridge and we ended up bushwhacking for a hundred yards before I eventually spotted the low-slung shelter, way over yonder on the trail we should have taken.
After correcting course, we settled in for a quick sit, with neither of us really expecting to stay all that long.
Georgia told me that she figured my time to finally fill a deer tag was upon us, since I’d recently traded in my SUV for a pickup truck, and finally had a vehicle suitable for tossing a deer in the back.
I agreed, but suspected it might take more than a couple hours for my decades-long bad luck to change. And on a cold afternoon, with a snowstorm approaching, I correctly assumed that after a couple of hours, we’d both be chilled enough to call it quits.
We didn’t see anything, nor hear anything, in that two hours, and we decided all the commotion I had made on our trek down to the blind might have had something to do with that. On the way back to the deer-hauling pickup (we’re still hopeful), Georgia laughed when she saw that the real trail was a lot smoother than the one I’d tried to create.
“Hey,” she said. “We should have come down this way earlier.”
I couldn’t disagree.
Despite our chuckles, we did leave the woods deerless, and I didn’t know if she’d agree to another trip afield this season. The weather’s getting colder, after all. And there are only so many trees you can look at with your binoculars in order to kill time in the blind.
Then, finally warmed up after spending a couple of hours in my recliner, I received a truly mood-changing text message.
It turns out that a guy who lives not far from the spot we like to hunt had seen what he described as the biggest buck he’d ever seen.
And he was crossing the road, heading into the same woods Georgia and I had hunted earlier that day.
Now, I’m not saying there’s any chance I’ll actually cross paths with this monster buck. And if I do cross paths with him, I’m not saying I’ll be able to keep my wits together long enough to get off a good shot.
But now I know there’s a chance. A slim chance? Sure.
Sometimes, that’s all it takes to get you out the door and into the woods. I know my teenage hunting buddy agrees.
So who knows what the rest of the season holds? I’ll keep my fingers crossed. With a real, live (monstrous) deer out there, I’m confident that I’ll spend a lot more time over the next two weeks. And I’ll bet a little bit of cold weather won’t be enough to keep Georgia from keeping a watchful eye out for the big buck’s return.
John Holyoke can be reached at email@example.com or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, has been published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.