The leaves are dropping and the mornings have that familiar chill in the air, which means for a lot of hunters that deer season is in full swing. Across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee, hunters are hitting woods and fields in the dark to try and chase that monster buck.
For deer hunters, it’s a familiar routine – hiking under starlight, watching first light break while sitting in the stand, warming up with coffee, paying close attention to the wind, moon and weather. Opening day is right up there with Christmas morning. There are many different styles of hunting and hunters, ranging from mountain archers to hardwood bottom muzzleloaders and open range snipers.
If you don’t bag your goal early in the season, then the hardcore hunters rise to the task of dedicated repetition. By December the insanity starts to set in… why am I doing this? Going out in all weather, over and over, countless dozens of hours logged in pursuit of what seems like a ghost. You see sign all over, you have pictures from the game camera, you may have even seen the deer you’re after with your very own eyes but not had the opportunity to take him. It seems like it’s never going to pan out for you, until that one frosty morning where he slips up and gives you the opportunity. Or he doesn’t, and he lives to scratch out a living for another year while you dream about him every night.
This is deer hunting. Sometimes the game comes to you – literally and figuratively – and you have a solid harvest on opening weekend. Other times it’s the toil and grind, putting in the work, the hours, and the miles. Sometimes all of that work pays off late in the season, which is one of the most rewarding experiences a hunter can have. Other times, you get skunked. As they say, it’s called “hunting” not “killing”. But that tenacity is what it takes to be a hunter, regardless of results.
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” is a creed associated with the USPS letter carriers, but I think us hunters can adopt that creed as well. For those determined beyond weather, pain, cold or soreness, to those driving and hiking in the dark when everyone is still dreaming in Neverland, to those who can’t feel their fingers or toes by daybreak, I raise my travel coffee mug and salute you.