Do you remember the weather from last year's first week of buck season?
One extreme to the other it was; a bluebird day on Monday, pouring rain on Tuesday and half of Wednesday then snow and cold and wind the rest of the week. The second week began with more snow and cold, and I'm sure that weather saved a lot of deer from becoming venison sausage.
For me it is today, more so than tomorrow, that is the most exciting day of the year. Fueled by memories of more than 57 deer seasons past, my anticipation of the season is as strong as it ever was. Even remembering how many things have changed over the years does not dampen my enthusiasm for the hunt. Perhaps tomorrow we will finally bag the buck of our dreams.
This year the anticipation is sweeter than usual because my son, who has always been my best hunting buddy, has come from Missouri to hunt with me, and so the traditions of the past will again happen. After the last Amen is said at church, we will get on the road to hunting camp, stop along the way to eat dinner, conversing with fellow orange-coated hunters who have stopped at the same restaurant.
Anticipation is a collective thing; it must be shared to be truly experienced. Consuming a gallon of coffee at breakfast about 4 a.m. on opening day. Downing a stack of pancakes we seldom eat any other time of year with bacon or sausage. We confirm our morning location with the others in our own gang but there will be no sharing with anyone else exactly where we are going. When we get to our stand, we don't want any company.
Getting to your deer stand is a private and exquisite moment. We park the vehicle, don our outer gear, sling the rifle over our back and start the quiet trek in the dark to our stand. Years ago, my stand was 3 1/2 miles from the gamelands gate so I had to start early to get there before daylight. The most important component of arriving at your stand opening morning long before daylight is to stake out that territory as "yours." And to let things quiet before the sun comes up.
No one but another deer hunter doing the same thing understands the emotions and anticipation that overtakes a hunter waiting quietly, impatiently and alone for daylight to break. It seems to take forever but somehow the silhouettes of deer sneaking by us in the woods at first light is sweeter then than at any other time during the season. This is simply what it is all about.
I love the preparations for going to deer camp. Dragging out all the long underwear, sweatshirts and hunting coat, the orange hat, the rifle and shells and giving it a final going-over. Shopping for and packing up your share of the food for camp as well as cooking some of it to take along. Wondering if the smell of gun oil is as noxious to deer as human scent. Figuring it probably is and wondering what to do about it.
Getting on the highway, finally heading toward your destination. Wondering why hunters criss-cross the state to hunt. Why do we travel to their area and they come to ours? It's unexplainable. Greeting other hunters as they arrive at camp, exchanging stories from past hunts, laughing at goof-ups and misses from seasons past. Sitting by the fireplace or woodstove and drinking coffee and eating vegetable soup. Staying up later than you should yet not being able to sleep when you do lie down. Going to be especially tough this year as the Steelers play a night game this year on the eve of deer season. We can't miss that can we?
Finally falling into bed yet lying sleepless, sneaking peeks at the alarm clock every half-hour during the endless night, worried that you might oversleep.