My Grandpa passed away on October 14, 2011. He was a huge part of my life and his influences are felt everyday. I knew before I answered the phone that day what news was waiting on the other end. It didn't make it any easier knowing that he was gone, but I had prepared myself and knew how he would expect me to carry on. The next morning I went duck hunting, and he was with me.
Since then, I've always tried to be someplace outdoors on October 14. As the man who really introduced me to the outdoors, he is always alongside me one way or another. My time in the treestand yesterday was peaceful, just what was needed. I didn't see any deer, and missed a shot I took on a squirrel, but some days just being out in the autumn woods is satisfying enough.
As the setting sun was forcing my hunt to a close I decided to return in the morning if darkness arrived without any last-minute action. I admired the stars on my walk out to the truck. It's always prettier the farther you can be from the light pollution of the city.
Morning rolled around and I was again looking toward the stars as I crept along the field edge. The wet grass soaking my pants from the knees down. With the quietness of my steps and the breeze in my favor, I walked within 15 feet of a deer as I turned to enter the woods. The loud wheeze made me jump as the deer stomped it's foot and blew again before bounding off a few more feet. Pausing for a while, I shrugged my shoulders, took about ten more steps and began ascending the tree.
As the sun lit up the morning sky the day officially started as deer were moving from the woods out into the standing beans. Likely the deer that blew at me 45 minutes earlier. She was joined by several others and before long they were all browsing along the field edge.
The urge for acorns must have been too strong to stay in the beans or work toward the corn. Soon the group was heading back into the corner pinch point where the oaks dropped food on a constant basis.
In range, then out of range. The dance seemed to go on for a while. I was drawn once but as the deer turned broadside it also turned behind a tree. As she walked away I let down, then took a seat as the group was drifting off toward the bedding area.
Minutes later three of the does decided they weren't done eating, circling back around and heading into an area with several shooting lanes to my left. I was picking the spots as they were heading back into range, drawing and holding for the right moment.
At about 25 yards the right moment appeared as the biggest of the does stepped into a clearing. I held the pin behind her shoulder and waited for her to stop. "Take your time. Follow through" echoed through my head as my body went into autopilot. I can still see the arrow flying in slow motion. The white vanes and red nock almost glowing from the morning sun.
Fletchings disappeared. The deer leaped, kicked, and dashed off. Coming to a stop seconds later at the field edge, pausing behind a giant oak. The next steps out into the open field were wobbly as she bedded down for the last time. It's moments like this that I want to call my Grandpa the most, to relive the story and hear his voice ask questions about the hunt.