I was in the stand last night. It was eighty four degrees as I set out on the two hundred and fifty yard trek from truck to tree. I arrived with sweat pouring down my face, trudging noisily to the edge of a well utilized funnel. I should have turned around, and I knew it, but my stubborn mind always pictures Mr. Big quartering away at fifteen yards every morning and afternoon that I hunt the bed-stand. Having a chance at least eases my mind.
The hunt turned about how you would think: wrong spot and none-deer. However, and as always, a lack of action allows for contemplation, and they are equally necessary to the success of a season. Sometimes the woods make do not make sense until you see them from the top of a tree. I thought initially that I was on the edge of a prime bedding area for deer. I found that I had ventured between the sheets and was resting my head on the pillow, essentially trying to kill while announcing my intentions. Being in the middle of the cane sure allows you to understand what is happening with deer. It also is a surefire sign that you will remain with no food in the freezer. The bugs were bad and even if I had been in the right tree, the shots that would be presented would have to be quick and decisive, which is not the remedy for my early season habit of rushing the release.
At this point of the thought process, my mind wandered back to opening weekend (last post). I suppose that I imagined this season to be the year it all came together with me and the bow. More time on the stand, thorough scouting, more mastery of the bow, and weather that seemed like it was cooperating at just the right time. The dream season.
I was discouraged thinking about my expectations and then thinking about what has actually transpired. I have rushed two shots that cost me two deer (one miss, one unrecovered), which has been followed by ungodly october heat and zero deer movement. I sat disappointed for some time, watching a spider gracefully wrap a fly caught in a well placed web. The spider would climb up to anchor herself, only to float back down to knit the casket for the unsuspecting prey.
The hunt is only successful for those that deserve it. It takes a dedication to finding the game, to mastery of the stick and string, to planting the crop, and it takes time. Thinking about two weeks ago, if the arrows had connected, I would be looking at a season to remember, with meat in the freezer and a rack headed to the wall. Instead, I sat thinking about a dream season lost. Its easy to think about it that way when the woods are still. Off-target arrows tend to take permanent residence in the inside of the mind, and those memories make it more difficult to remember the taste of success.
Part of deserving it is having patience. Nature rewards those who put in their time, who know the woods like the spider and who approach the hunt with respect and that "floating grace." It also should shed light on the true nature of success. Success is the end result, but I would say that any hunter who harvests an animal without understanding the consequences, or even worse, who is apathetic or calloused to the death inflicted, is an utter failure. Not to be a downer, but this is a matter or life and death and it should not be taken lightly. Deserving it is more than just connecting with the shot, it is also about mastering the contemplation that Izaak Walton describes so eloquently.
I used to have discussions on fishing with my friend Carson, and I would always harken back to The Compleat Angler and Izaak Walton, and I think they spoke to the nature of success. Fly fishing, I would say, is not about catching fish. Reluctanly he would agree, until one day he looks back and says "It may not be about catching fish, but it sure as hell isn't about NOT catching fish." And he was right.