The trees, especially the evergreens, are laden with heavy snow and the whips in front of me, as well as thick bushes, are ornamented, actually covered, in frozen ice. We may as well be hunting on an alien planet.
But this is Vermont in later November, almost a week into the firearms buck season. The brutal cold that marked the first two days, variable winds and snow every other day, have made this season a true challenge.
As I scan the white wasteland in front of me, three hours into a comfortable seat behind a ground blind, my mind starts to wander. This can happen when you have gone days without seeing a deer. Much of this, to be honest, is of my own making. I have better places to hunt, more remote places, but I have decided to stay close to home on terrain that is less challenging because of an injury, a nasty fall, last winter.
After an operation on a massive torn rotator cuff my recovery is going well, thank you, but I am still recovering and I know it would take only one slip, on an icy slope going uphill or down, and a fall on that shoulder could put an end to deer hunting in the future, for good. So this year, we are pretty much restricted to moving along on relatively level ground and taking our time.
But, back to the wandering of the mind. I got to thinking about a letter (Yes, Virginia, I am talking about a letter that came to me in the mail, something that has become even far more unlikely than seeing a legal buck during the rifle season in my neck of the woods.)
It was a letter that opened my mind to something I never gave much attention to, other than a few references made in the past when writing about the ever-popular Camp Swampy Catalog. (Readers can expect the next catalog review in the coming weeks.)
Anyway, a Castleton man I have come to know (he is a guy well-versed in a wide range of topics) over the past year or so by the name of Ted Day wrote to tell me he enjoys my writing and wanted to comment on one column (The Things You Carry, Oct. 19) in particular, when I wrote about how too many hunters are obsessed with collecting all the latest gear and gadgets that promise success in the deer woods.
Ted wrote: “As a non-hunter who walks through Walmart’s outdoors department and gets the LL Bean hunting catalog, I have a question about camouflage.”
He went on: “Why is most hunting gear camoed? i.e. hunting knives, flashlights, rifles, camping gear, etc. How many of those objects (are) lost and not found when set down or dropped because they work so well on a camouflaged forest floor?” Ted also can’t fathom as to why four-wheelers and pickup trucks can come completely camouflaged.
These are legitimate questions and I’d like to offer an explanation if I could. The camo people were so successful at putting the right blend of camouflage on clothing and gloves, they figured, “hey, what the heck … let’s put camo on all the other gear. That could help sales.”
Well, it did. But Ted’s argument is camouflaging everything only helps hunters or anyone else who goes camo to lose their valuable stuff. I think, Ted, that it is all about sales and selling, and it appears the manufacturers are onto something.
Anyway, Ted puts a humorous light on the subject of aging and how we tend to lose things, things that aren’t even in camo, like eye glasses, and other everyday things. “I have trouble finding stuff I just put down in broad daylight. My friend Joe calls it CRS (can’t remember stuff).”
Speaking of remembering, my mind shifts back to the purpose behind why I am out here, in 22-degree weather, toes getting cold and my face colder because of a brisk wind, waiting for a legal buck to come down the old deer trail in front of me. “Are we having fun yet?” That’s what I ask myself when things get tough.
The answer is no, and I am aware that, only 20 minutes away, I can fire up the wood stove, dry out my wet hunting clothes (they are red and black wool coat and green wool pants, by the way) and get myself a hot cup of coffee. I block all of that from the sensible part of my brain and fire up the primitive part.
But that only lasts for another 10 or 15 minutes. I take a long look around, shifting my eyes through the snow cover near and far, looking for that sweet, brown movement. Seeing none, I stand, take the blaze orange vest that was hanging from a limb nearby and slip it on.
I head back to the truck and reflect on the day. OK, so we didn’t see a single deer today. But, still, I’m blessed to be out here and, God willing, I’ll be out again before full daylight. Another day; another chance to put some venison in the freezer.
Contact Dennis Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.