There are moments during a hunt where I’ve been spellbound by the life around me. It is in these moments that society loses its grip and I become attuned to the natural state of things. These are tangible moments. I can smell the air change and hear the quiet ringing in my ears. And when I blink, a simpler world appears before me. This is when I am the most affected and effective. This is when I know I am hunting.
Getting to this place hasn’t been easy. The modern world is noisy and complicated. Shutting it off and stepping away has been my greatest challenge. It’s been hard to focus on the things that matter in a state of constant interruption, even when surrounded by the natural world.
Bowhunting has taught me many things in the last ten years. The most important is that there is always a dusk and there is always a dawn. And it is during these moments of transition where the the things that matter become clearer.
Both begin with a calm. Always. Everything seems to settle at the same time. The trees, the animals, and the birds all seem to stop moving in unison. It’s as if they struck some kind of unanimous accord unbeknownst to the observing tourist. Whether orchestrated by natural forces or fabricated by my fragile human mind, I don’t know. But it always happens the same way at the same time and it is a wonder to witness.
A ringing of the ears follow — not because of a loud or persistent noise — but due to the lack thereof. We’ve all heard the phrase “the silence was deafening” and that is the best way to describe it. You hear nothing but everything, and it seems to last a very long time. An exclamation point marked with precision to prepare the senses for what is to come.
The birds are the first to break the silence. They are the most active during these times and are focused on calories. The evening conversation is dominated by busy wrens, thrush, chickadees, and the occasional whip-poor-will. Their song is one of hustle and purpose save for the mighty barred owl, who interjects only to let you know it is there and that death follows on the wing.
Dawn’s chorus has a similar cast yet the tune sounds different to my ears. The celebratory tones are full of hope and promise and seem to build with the rising sun. This could be my interpretation of a simple event, but I’ve heard it enough to remember the tune and know the words. I prefer the song of Spring and its early morning robins and gobbling turkeys. There is nothing more electric to my ears than the powerful thrum of a mature tom lusting for a hen. It is powerful. It is primal. And it will make you feel microscopic.
But as wonderful as the birds are, it is the furry and four-legged that summon this bowhunter to Autumn’s cold woods. The whitetail deer is the object of my affection and the feature presentation of either showing. While the always energetic squirrel excels in its cameos, the elusive whitetail has real star power. It’s the anticipation of this magnificent animal that sets the mood. When things are predictable, the whitetail is often unpredictable. In times of hustle, they move with poise. And when it is time for flight, they do so with a grace and elegance unrivaled by any other living thing.
Hunting this worthy animal at such a special time is intimate and spiritual. The details have a way of sticking with you. I’ve seen saliva drip from the jowls of a rutting buck within feet of my shaking longbow. I’ve been alone in the dark with a doe and welled-up as she took her last breath. I know how awful it feels to “give an animal time” when every inch of you wants to go find it. And I know how wonderful it is to shake your buddy’s hand and see his smiling face in the beam of your flashlight.
I’ve absorbed these experiences and many others from a decade’s worth of dawns and dusks. And take comfort in knowing where to look when I get lost in the noise.
Thank you for reading. 2020 has been a rough year for all of us. I apologize for my absence and hope to share with you on a more consistent basis. I am currently working on my second book and hope to publish it in 2021. Stay tuned for updates. In the meantime, you can find me on the Traditional Outdoors Podcast and on the Facebook Community of the same name. Good luck and stay safe!