At 5 AM the alarm went off. All my clothes were laid out -- on the porch. There was a reason -- for the last 6 weeks my hunting gear has been in the garage, and I wanted to swap the smell of indoors for the smell of outdoors. Temperatures had dropped to the 20s, and when I retrieved them they glistened with a thin layer of frost. I brought them in and dried them over the electric heater (made for that purpose). In a few minutes I was walking beneath a canopy of brilliant stars on my way to my tree stand.
I disappeared down a faint trail guarded by thorny, invisible vines that pulled at my pant legs. An old earthen dam was the next landmark to negotiate before I could get to the rusty fence line that would guide me the rest of the way. As I got to the fence I rousted a deer out of bed. One thing is for sure -- a deer can move a lot faster in the pitch black than I can! Finally, I stumbled to the base of frosty platform, climbed the bent tubing ladder, and waited for dawn.
Nothing stirred. Whining tires from the highway, and the distant bawling of a few cows were the only sounds. On my right the once golden field now looked like a frozen lake. I kept a close eye on it hoping it would provide adequate back-lighting to reveal any movement. Nothing moved. I always bring a book along when I am going to be sitting, and as soon as it got light enough I pulled out, Writing about my life, by William Zinsser.
Do you know what I have experienced a number of times while reading in a tree stand?
My senses become aware of nearly imperceptible changes around me, and I will look up at just the right moment to see game.
It happened again, and instinctively I lowered my book, and my eyes immediately zeroed in on the presence. The first time it was a deer about one-hundred yards away appearing and disappearing among the trees along the top of the ridge in front of me. I never heard it, or even had a chance for a shot, but I knew something was out there.
About forty-five minutes later it happened again -- without even thinking I once again lowered the book, and my gaze was dead on. This time I caught a glimpse of something traversing the same ridge at a pretty good clip. It was a coyote! I don't like coyotes. Tucking the book under my thigh, I raised my rifle and quietly whispered, C'mon stop -- for just five seconds!
He did -- it was his last stop.