While hunting is hard, thinking about it is easy
he weather on Sunday morning was supposed to be in the low 40s, clear, and calm. It wasn't.
If I could be as wrong as often as the weatherman and still keep my job, I would have it made.
Sunday morning was cloudy, windy and the temperature was around 20 degrees. By the time I realized I was going to freeze to death if I went out and sat in a tree waiting for a deer to pass by, I was already awake. There is no point in going back to bed when the coffee is ready. I fed the livestock, put on enough clothes for an arctic expedition, threw my bow in the truck and was off.
There was a time I would decide where to hunt when I got to the farm. Wind direction, temperature and stand placement all helped to determine the perfect spot to be at that particular moment. As years passed, I have become much more conservative. Stories of hunters falling from stands or otherwise being injured and not being found until the next day have persuaded me to tell people where I am going to be, just in case the unlikely would happen. Saturday night, I told both my son and my wife that I would be hunting the stand below the new pond.
As I walked the trail down the hill and across the dam toward the stand, I knew I had made the wrong choice. The weatherman had lied to me again and I was going to be sitting perfectly still for several hours facing a north wind that cut through a person like a knife. I briefly considered going to a more protected stand but thought of the consequences if something did happen. On 600 acres, it could take up to a month to find my frozen corpse. By that time, my wife would be so angry, she would probably kick me before she started the grieving process. I would stick with the plan and tough it out.
Before daylight, a person has nothing to do but stare into the darkness and feel the cold slowly moving from the exposed skin of one's face clear into the bones. Boredom makes the cold colder. When it finally became light enough to see, I could entertain myself by seeing deer off in the distance, whether they really were a deer or bushes that looked like deer.
On top of the hill, I could hear something move. It could only be one of two things that make that much noise in the timber. Either a buck was chasing a doe down the hill toward me or a squirrel was plowing through the leaves looking for hickory nuts.
I finally spotted him. There were about a thousand trees between where I sat high in my oak tree and the hickory grove where the squirrel was hunting. I thought to myself, if someone were here to place a bet, I would bet a dollar, within the hour that squirrel will come scurrying up my tree.
It only took 15 minutes. He came running up my tree, scared himself half to death and spent the next half hour scolding me for being there. To have a noisy squirrel sounding the alarm while looking directly at you never helps a person remain invisible. Any deer that may have been in the area were well forewarned about the intruder in the woods.
By late morning, the cold had crept to the very core of my body. When a person can put their tongue between their upper lip and teeth and feel the cold, hypothermia is setting in. I decided to climb down from my freezing perch and leave the tree to my noisy squirrel neighbor.
Next week gun season starts. Hunting gets easy. The family will not go hungry this winter and I will not have to work so hard to bring home the food.
Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.