Friday, February 24, 2012

Oak memories...

     February's confusion continues and the springlike 60 degrees and sunny skies are begging me into the woods...I decide on a 40 acre tract that I haven't hunted in years. Maybe today will be my day to find a trophy...headgear shed from some gnarly old buck. Amazing how much the property has changed since I last tromped here. The newly dug pond with just a trickle of water has grown into a full lake, surrounded by cattails and blow downs. The ash trees that were just saplings have turned into logs...At the edge of the trees I find a likely looking trail and make my way in. It all comes back, all familiar, just a little more age...I wind my way along the trail and take notice of the deer tracks littering the ground. Evidence of turkeys, too. I come upon a giant old shagbark, blown down in some unknown wind storm. The black and char reveal a victim of a lightning strike. It's sad to think of how many winters the old tree had seen and now it will be nothing more than dirt... I make my way over the enormous trunk and continue on the path...

     Down a steep hillside and across the creek. I scramble up the other side towards an old cedar thicket where the bucks used to bed...hopefully I'll find some horn in there. I scan the hillside looking for a prize, but no luck. The cedars are thick with green, almost dark inside them. I take a moment, a deep breath...it's fresh, clean smelling unlike the rest of the earthy smelling woods with its damp, decaying maples, oaks and hickories on the forest floor. Time to trek on...

     I follow the ridge top trail to a behemoth of a red oak. It's a perfect location...the intersection of a four way stop used by 100's of deer over the decades. A natural ambush point... I glance up at the remnants of my old perch, scabbed together from 2x4's and pieces of a pallet balanced on a trunk sized limb. A few stubborn boards have hung on over the years, but most have long since rotted away. I can still make out a few nails that the tree has long since absorbed and can almost hear the pounding of the hammer strikes from so many years ago...I kick the debris away from it's base and have myself a seat. The years come rushing back and I'm 18 again when I close my eyes...A young hunter, greener than green, full of anticipation, a real nimrod. I grin as I remember my time up this tree. The things I had seen, the experiences she gave me, the lessons learned...18 again...I think of the thoughts of an 18 year old and what must have went through my head perched up there all those years ago. The missed opportunities, the chances not taken...and the smile of a teenager crosses the face of a 43 year old man...

     I rub my sore knee and shake my head at the frustration of age and get back to my feet...I've sat long enough. I rest my hand on the old oak and am grateful for the reminiscing...time to move on and see where the path will lead.