However, if I situate myself near the ditch about a hundred yards from the field's edge, they should all pass right by me. On this morning, my grand plan was complicated by wind that had been predicted to move in my face and away from the deer was now blowing my scent - in gusts - right down the ditch line. The first doe picked her head up at 80 yards, snorted, and ran. Not great. Second deer, a 160-180lb buck with a pitiful 4-point set of antlers, got within about 40 yards, picked up my scent, looked right at me, and nervously walked away. Several more animals got within about 40 yards in the dense cover, knew what I was, knew where I was, and seemed to understand why I was there.
Finally in the low morning cracks of scattered sun light, a 140-160lb buck with another tiny 4-point spread walked out of the wild blueberry thicket at 60 yards, and immediately looked at me. The animal continued forward...38....35....32....30 yards without breaking off his stare. I tried to control my breathing, knowing that he could see me. I didn't dare pick up my bow, and finally the animal backed away from me, never once diverting his eyes from mine. I would have been ready to take the buck at 20 yards if he would have just taken a few more steps and looked the other way.
The sun continued to rise and my breath became less visible. I created some hopeful logic that maybe the wind would die after the sun rose, which would have brought the deer closer to me. Of course, the wind never died. I watched the morning sun burn into and through the kaleidoscope of sweetgum leaves, colored bright yellow, bright red, and bold maroon. The leaves twisted but hardly fell - not ready to concede the season I suppose. I rested my bow against the stump in front of me, and leaned back against the silver maple tree behind me, allowing my breaths to come heavier and slower. As increasingly larger patches of light opened on the forest floor, the silently moving deer were replaced by squirrels - anything but silent, seeming to execute military style orders to retrieve food stores from under the leaves, then re-bury it just a few feet away. Cardinals swooped into breaks in the forest canopy to eat seeds from wild grasses. Soon after, it was woodpeckers and chickadees, both flitting about the trees, looking for the eggs of worms and insects tucked behind cracks and seams in tree bark.
My attention faded away to all the things that needed to be done, which was my cue to wrap up.
I'll be back, when the wind's right.