Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Now or never...

     Despite all the obstacles that get in our way, the two of us still managed to make time to be in the woods. We walked back through the edge of the field along the Grant's Creek bottoms, steep hillsides jutting up out of the valley. The evening air was cold and crisp, typical late November weather in our part of the country. We sneaked along the trail, trying to avoid crunching the fallen sycamore leaves covering the ground and giving us away to our quarry.

      Climb up and settle in for the evening watch. Close quarters as our shoulders bump one another while we hope and wait for a buck to make his appearance. This hunt will be the last of the year for she and I together as the life of an active high school girl and her Dad's hectic schedule rarely mesh...The breeze is cool as she pulls the knit cap down over her ears and tucks her hands up the sleeves of her camouflage coat...I close my eyes and I'm instantly reminded of a time when she was bundled up head to toe in the winter, toboggan headed, mittens on her delicate hands and a scarf covering her face as she played out in the cold as a little kid and I silently smile to myself...

      We passed the time watching the birds and listening to the rustling of the leaves in the wind, occasionally our ears playing tricks on us as we'd strain to hear something making its way towards our hiding spot. We talked a little about sports and her future, colleges and dorm rooms, friendships growing and friendships fading as she navigates her way through life. I shared a few words of advice and offered up experiences from my youth, but mainly, I just sat and listened as she whispered...

     Light was fading fast and darkness will be crashing in soon. Now is the time, that witching hour that all hunters are familiar with. Something snaps us to attention as limbs rattle and twigs break... I jerk my head to the right, hoping to see a buck heading our way, but to my surprise, it's a Cooper's Hawk that has swooped in and captured a squirrel in his talons. He sits on a low limb picking at his meal and as he attempts to fly off, he drops the squirrel's lifeless body and flies up the creek, out of sight. We look at each other in disbelief and then get back to the task at hand...

      Just as I'm about to to throw in the towel for her season, there's hope as a doe pokes her head out of the brush and then trots into the field, looking over her shoulder. I tell her to get ready and there he is...A young buck in pursuit of a potential lady friend. The doe passes our stand, but the buck decides to take a moment and gorge himself on some clover before courting the doe... Darkness is now our enemy as the light gets lower. I whisper to her that it's now or never as she kneels down in the stand to get a good rest for her rifle. Solid and steady, she pulls the hammer back with a click and lines up the sights. I unconsciously hold my breath and wait. Her thin finger squeezes the trigger and the .44 reports and echoes it's shot down the holler towards the Ohio. The buck falls in his tracks, the shot perfectly placed.

      We make our way to her deer, smiling and replaying the moment over and over and as she grabs hold of the young bucks antlers and I snap a few photos, I can't help but feel blessed to have had this time to share with my daughter and for the bond that we have. The size of the buck's antlers were of no consequence to me, as the memory is the trophy of a lifetime in my eyes...