The whitetail doe and her twin fawns served as a distraction, a decoy, that made me neglect the primary objective of my evening hunt. Apparently, as I get older, my focus on the task at hand is more easily diverted.
But then, I have never been known for my disciplined attention to my immediate surroundings and current conditions. My mind tends to wander. That is an understatement; my mind goes on lengthy road trips, sometimes to different continents.
Yesterday evening, for example, I was not sitting atop a ladder stand on the edge of a North Country woodland. I was in Scotland watching the roe deer emerge shadow-like from a copse of stunted trees on the moor to graze in the foggy gloamimg. That was my fanciful vision of the doe and her two grown fawns that came out of our woods to feed on the frost-bitten clover they seem to love. Roe deer in Scotland, whitetails in the North Country – whatever. All deer have such beauty and grace in their movement that I am entranced.
Distraction. Decoys. The three deer were a couple hundred yards to the south, the opposite way I should have been watching from my perch on the ladder stand. A light wind was blowing from the northwest, and I expected a deer would walk from that direction along a well-used trail beneath my stand in this last half-hour of daylight. Experienced and clever bow-hunter that I am, my expectation was spot-on.
Except I wasn’t watching the trail. I was looking away, watching the deer-in-the-hayfield scene.
When I heard the soft crunch of leaves on the woodland floor, I turned away from the Scottish moor to peer into the woods. The big doe, which I later dolefully named “Summer Sausage,” was strolling unconcernedly toward my stand. Until she saw me move.
I was busted. She froze. I froze. Predator and prey in a standoff. Three minutes, four minutes. She slowly took a step back. I slowly raised the bow. She took a few more steps in reverse, turned to put a buckthorn bush between us, trotted eastward along another trail, and that was that.
These daydreams have cost me more than one deer over the years. I woefully recall a huge-bodied,10-point buck that was RIGHT THERE beside my tree stand before I noticed him. I was eagle-watching and imaging what it would be like to sail along on the thermal updrafts of the river valley in a glider.
Huge bucks do not fantasize about soaring like eagles on the wind. At least I do not think they do. This particular one was focused on reality, attentive to the current situation. His antlers, alas, are not on my Clubhouse wall.
Despite my best intentions, this unforgiveable habit of daydreaming during my hunts has happened many, many times in the past and it is likely to happen many, many times in the future. I would like to claim that it is an essential component of the creative writer’s trade, these flights of escape to imagined worlds, but it’s probably not. It’s just woolgathering. Cloud chasing.
Tomorrow morning early, I am returning to that ladder stand on the edge of the woods, and I am going to stay focused. Totally focused. Until the squirrels start their circus act. I’m intrigued by their body language. There are at least a hundred bits of non-verbal communication that squirrels share among themselves and with other woodland species of wildlife and if you pay attention…
Ohmygod! Where did that buck come from?