Opening Day

Opening day of deer season in North Carolina.

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“So far, so good,” you murmur to yourself. Deer season will officially open in an hour or so and you are where you want to be. As your breathing returns to normal from the exertion of climbing up into the tree stand, you sit down and lean against one of the trees supporting the stand.

This is a good time. Your body is overheated from the hike to the stand and the efforts spent in climbing so that you do not feel the cold yet. It is a full hour before daylight so the woods are quiet—none of the noise of birds, animals, winds, or limbs falling which you will later interpret to be deer sounds. As you sit, your mind begins to wander back over the events leading up to this morning.

The hunt actually began weeks before when you decided on a site for this season’s Opening Day. Since you were a relative newcomer to the area, you were somewhat concerned about the choices available. Eventually, it was decided that a nearby State Came Lands Management area should be investigated.

Accordingly, maps of the area were obtained and studied with such prominent terrain features as lakes, creeks, roads, and hills noted. Several areas were circled for more detailed investigation: the north border of a lake, a creek bottom, the valley between two hills. Now for a first-hand look at the area.   

As you planned to spend the first of several Saturdays scouting the area, the inevitable questions from the family of a hunter rang out. “What about the yardwork you—— ?” “I’ll do that during the week after work.” “Daddy, you said we would—-.” “We’ll go next Saturday, I promise.”

Driving over to the reserve, you said a prayer of thanksgiving for your family—they do not understand what motivates the Head of the Household to spend his days off rubbing stinking compounds into his boots, cleaning guns which are still clean from last year, wandering around the woods 60 miles from home on a beautiful Saturday, or poring over maps as if they were the directions to a lost gold mine–but they still tolerate you. You have tried many times to explain the motivations of an outdoorsman, a sportsman. Sometimes they seem to understand and appreciate your behavior. And then you fall into a frozen pond duck hunting and come home soaking wet with ice crystals in your hair. The shaking of their heads tells you they haven’t quite gotten it yet. However, each year they become more tolerant and there is hope for them.

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