Everything had been packed or laid out last evening, so all I had to do after showering and donning the camo was crank the truck and roll out. The full moon hung low on the horizon before me as I drove west. Like usual, it got cooler and foggier the farther I drove from the urban heat island. Since I'd seen two other trucks at the parking area Thursday I wondered how many other hunters would be in "my" part of the forest this morning.
When I reached the parking area shortly before 6 am, no tail light reflectors greeted me, only darkness. Being first gave me a nice little feeling of accomplishment. Suiting up with the tree stand safety strap and boots went quick, everything that had been an issue Thursday went smoothly.
Of course nothing is perfect, and the fog or whatever was giving my GPS grief. I supposedly had 15 feet accuracy but it showed me 50 feet away from a known reference point when I was standing on it. Oh well. Not the first time I stumbled in the dark in this area. Before long, and without too many circles walked, I spotted one of my trail markers and made the game trail onto the island.
The only other complication came shortly afterwards, when the tree I intended to climb turned out to have grown significantly in my memory. This oak, near the holly scrape, that I scouted before I had even taken delivery of my tree stand, was woefully inadequate. As the sky lightened with the glow of civil twilight I made a command decision to go with a pine right in front of me that I had a good feeling about. Turns out I was a little turned around, and as I was tightening the safety straps 20 feet up I realized the scrape was almost directly below me. Oh well, didn't mean to step all around it but too late now.
The landscape lightened, and the colors grew from dim greys to the muted tones of a North Florida fall. The forecast high for the day was near 90 degrees, but it was currently comfortably in the upper 60's. The mist from the ThermaCell drifted perfectly past me and to my back, driving away the Swamp Angels but illiciting vague fears of toxicity. Oh well.
About an hour passed in blissful peace. The woods were mostly silent, but I could hear turkeys talking to each other in the distance and a couple of hound dogs in the farm out near the road. A bird of some kind started calling bloody murder about a hundred yards away or so. I immediately wondered what had disturbed it. I heard a deer blow in front of me, and an answering blow from behind me in the marsh. What were these guys up to?
I found out shortly when an old, grey doe stepped from behind a palmetto clump. She was out of range, but seemed to be completely unperturbed. As she stepped into the open, suddenly a small yearling burst out besides her, jumping like a puppy. The yearling was tiny, and I wondered how long out of spots it was. A third younger mature doe joined, and they crossed the island, the yearling prancing about in contrast with the calm but deliberate steps of its elders.
Technically all of those deer were legal game, but I'm certainly not hungry enough to disturb that little family unit, and hopefully never will be. Besides, although they might have been in range of other competent archers, they stayed outside of my comfort zone shooting "instinctive" with my recurve.
About 20 minutes after the trio passed my stomach and throat told me it was time for a snack and some water. I sat down and hung my bow from the stand while I dug out some jerky and the water bottle. By this time the squirrels were coming out in full force, and a group of them were having Squirrel Wars in the nearby oaks. I packed away the jerky and water, and picked up my bow. When I looked up, a full-grown doe was standing less than 20 yards away!
OK, fearless reader, I know people joke about Whitetail Magic and how they can materialize and dematerialize at will, but seriously, not a sound betrayed this deers approach. I spotted her a few heartbeats before she spotted me, but I was still sitting, and with the bow across my lap. Suddenly she looked up, and locked eyes with me. Two seconds later she was "high tailing" on her backtrack, with another unseen deer joining her. However, in the spectrum of Whitetail fleeing, their movements were rather relaxed, and based on the sound neither ran far before dropping to a walk.
I stood there on high alert, listening to Squirrel Wars on my right, hoping that any other deer from that group might still come out on my left. A minute later more Whitetail Magic happened and somehow for a moment Squirrel Wars became another deer. WTF? I didn't even really see this one just heard it taking off.
Six deer, seen from a random tree with nothing but a scape nearby! I spent another half hour carefully surveying the area but by that time it was really heating up, and the woods were truly falling silent outside of the still crazy tree rats. During that time Squirrel Wars had a skirmish in the oak right before me. I had a serious mental debate about trying to take one or two (they were legal as well), I gave myself a pretty good chance of hitting one at that range, however a few considerations stopped me. If I missed, the arrow would either sail off into the palmettos, probably never to be seen again, or or it would embed itself into the tree truck 20 feet up, neither of which seemed a good use for a $25 arrow-broad head combination. A third horrible possibility occurred to me, with a squirrel skewered to the tree by the arrow 20 feet up. I put the bow down.
At 10:30 I climbed down, packed everything up, and went for a walk with my bow. I guess technically I was still hunting, and in my walks in the woods I have definitely found myself in bow range of random deer, but I had no real illusions about it. I was just exploring for the upcoming gun seasons I have permits for.
|Cypress, marsh, blooming goldenrod in the background|
|Skunk Ape? Grey Alien? I actually interpret this as a young Florida Black Bear, a little washed out though. Wish it was fresher|
The day finally heated up beyond my comfort level so I made my way back to my stuff then through the tangle to the woods road and the truck. I was pretty whipped by that time, and the pack felt a lot heaver than it did going in.
|The trail back. Its there, really, squint your eyes and you can see it.|
|Liatrus. One color of the rainbow that signals that October, the Best Month, is almost here.|