“Do you still want to go hunting with me?”
At 7:30 we walked up Deer Hill Road together, me in hunters orange vest trying to match my quicker to Seth’s long languorous paces. He was maybe 6 ft. 3 in., dressed in denim and flannel, soon to vest himself in hunter’s blaze orange; cradling Pop’s new walnut stock Winchester 30-30 in the crook of his left arm. He was two months into his twenties.
When we reached the powerline he donned the vest and loaded six brass shells into the chamber, each clicking into place. We started off over the frost-stiffened ground, every brown leaf and fern blade finely etched in delicate whiteness. Then I noticed my sneakers. Seth did too. He gave me a sorry glance and smiled. My feet would be soaked when frost came out of the ground, drawn by the sun that was even now rising, line of sight, between the mountains.
We crunched along through the brush, him pointing to thickets of tall thin seedlings and telling me he saw a doe in there last week. Did not worry, Seth had no doe permit. We followed the powerline down and already our feet were kicking up silvery droplets. At base of the hill a swamp glimmered, a stream running through.
He asked if I wanted to cut with him into the woods on our left across the rocky stream. I nodded my assent. Unthinking, I stepped on several beech branches, cracking. He gave me a look.
We made for the great purple-gray rock face. I noticed a ceramic pot shard among frosty silvery leaves–remnant of an old homestead? We crossed the stream immediately below the rock and Seth stopped to listen. This was where I saw telltale brown droppings a few weeks back. We are now in the country of whitetail deer.
I traveled behind several paces, stopping when he stopped. Still coming alongside the stream, and picking my way over rocks, I grabbed a thin birch trunk and it snapped clean. I winced at the noise, and wondered at breaking such a healthy young tree. Maybe it was frozen by night frosts… already?
I came through, bright in hunter’s orange, wearing a white stocking cap, toting Seth’s duffel bag and noting things down on 3 x 5 cards… came through a woods choked with thin trees. Everywhere I saw twigs, stems of thin tall trees, thickets of fine cover for gray deer, brown deer, tan.
Having skirted around to its end, we climbed part way up the back of the great rock, stepping over rivulets of water, over downed trees and red rotten deadfall glistening with fine lines of frost. Lanky Seth motioned for me to catch up.
“Want to see some bear sign?”
I nodded vigorously.
“Right there.” He pointed, but I saw nothing, just some leaves and debris. “Where?” (Whispering.)
He pointed again, gesturing away in a circle. And slowly I saw. Leaves have been disturbed by scrapings, gouges, the dirt dug up in a rut here, a circle over there.
“He was looking for food, probably grubs.” The might of a bear showed in the riven earth.
As we come down the rock toward a section of the marsh, Seth pointed to the densest of thickets. I saw a flicker of white, maybe a brown movement, hear the crackling of brush and my own voice saying, “I see it!”
He had already brought the 30-30 up, but took it down instantly. Had I the gun I might have shot, but for one thing. Simultaneous in my mind with the volatile desire to shoot at the white flag of the deer came the memory of Karen Wood.
And with that memory I take off my white hat. Since the death of Karen Wood, white stands for target because it stands for deer. The 27-year-old mother of infant twins was shot to death in her Bangor area back yard during deer season. The man who shot her “saw the deer” but the white flag of the deer turned out to be white mittens Karen Wood was wearing to keep her hands warm while on an errand in her yard… “35 feet from her wellhead and close to a dog-run with chain-link fence.”
Now, Seth did not shoot the deer because he saw no rack. “… I think it was the doe I saw before.”
note: unrelated to my post, requesting prayers from all our friends, just for today.