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The 2006 Season

Oct 7 2006 - Oct 29 2006 Archery Deer
Nov 4 2006 - Nov 5 2006 Youth Deer Weekend
Nov 11 2006 - Nov 26 2006 Rifle Deer Season
Dec 2 2006 - Dec 10 2006 Muzzleloader and Archery Deer

by James Ehlers

Each year Mother Nature grants the month of October poetic license. October is free to choose from Autumn's palette as she paints our hills the hues of pumpkin and apple and corn. The annual riot of color signals the approach of winter and traditionally the time when families would bring in the harvest and prepare for the blustery snowy days that lie ahead. Corn, squash, hay and potatoes are all brought in from the fields. Hardwood rounds are split and stacked. Wood stoves are polished and rusty pipe repaired. And for myself, it is time to head into the woods not just with a keen eye and an alert ear but with my bow.

I feel it is difficult for me to convey to those who do not hunt what a significant part it plays in my life, although I will attempt to now. And for those of you that are hunters, I am sure you have felt and do feel similiar emotions to those expresed in the following words. When I step into the woods during the deer season, there is a sense of belonging. A sense of belonging that I do not feel traveling on route 15 in my truck or at the store purchasing a cup of coffee. Hunting season is the culmination of many days and countless hours spent scouting throughout the summer, becoming intimately familiar with my quarry and its habits.

When I climb the birch tree overlooking the thicket of wild apples and settle into my stand it feels more comfortable than any couch. It always has. I have sat in the stand from the moment sunlight would first trickle down through the canopy and then again until my hand in front of my face would be invisible to me. And during those hours I am constantly amused, intrigued and awed by the woods and her tenants. Partridge patrol the forest floor stabbing sorrel and catkins and seeds of all denominations. Paranoid red squirrels scurry up trunks with apples twice the size of their head and cram them between forks in the tree limbs lest others gobble them up. Chipmunks race wildly across fallen limbs, seemingly out of control, disappearing in the clamor of crackling leaves. And then there is the moment...the moment that sometimes lasts for hours.

Deer are ghost-like in their effortless movements. Always alert. Dark eyes, peering. Brown ears tuned. If were not for the occasional leaf crackle under a hoof they could be easily mistaken for shadows. I remain motionless amidst the subtle circus of activity around me. I wait. I watch.

I know these animals well. I have spent much time with them in seasons past. I decide on my target. I am the predator. Man has long since eradicated the white tail deer's other predators -- the wolf and catamount, and now I am intricately linked with the white tail as its only true predator. It is a responsibility that feels as real as the arrow shaft sliding back across the rest as my fingers draw back the string.

By now 30 minutes or more have passed. I have succeeded in remaining motionless and unnoticed. The young buck stands before me. A mere 20 yards or so separates us. Intense excitement mixed with anxiety has been building in my heart, stomach and throat since the animal first appeared. A quiet beyond quiet rings in my ears.

I let the string slip over my fingers and with it goes as much sorrow as joy. The animal will be laying silently, perhaps behind a log or among some shoulder high saplings a short distance away.

Yes, I have taken its life, and for that I do feel remorse. But, as a human being there is a connection to the earth and her animals that is established only when we take responsibility for the blood ourselves and for this I am grateful. Fast food provides no meaning in my life and I am skeptical that it does for anyone. My bow may take a life. However, it is our shopping malls that take a species.

In a modern society where people are searching for meaning and a closeness to earth, the bond between true hunters and their game has existed since man has walked the earth, and it is no less stronger today. It is truly timeless.

James Ehlers is a professional fishing and hunting guide and naturalist who resides at the end of a dirt road in Underhill with his bird dog Winnie Thoreau. He owns Uncle Jammer's Guide Service


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