So last weekend was our deer hunting opener. Hunting buddies start talking about it a couple weeks ahead, get excited, brag about past kills, trade jibes about the good shots and hard shots. About a hard shot deer that was harder to retrieve than others like, getting that doe out of the water in the middle of a beaver pond, halfway between black pond ice on either side. And that unlucky doe who tried to jump the open water and didn’t make it. Had to shoot her. So on knees, pushed a double 16-foot ladder across the ice, extended it all the way to ice on the other side, crawled out on ladder rungs, reached the doe, roped her neck to a rung and crawled back, pulling her in with the ladder, the ice cracking and sinking. Yeah, nice shot Syd. We ain’t fishin!” “Shoot, it was nothing. Nice doe, hey!” So on with the  compliments and jibes from past deer seasons, then someone says the usual, “Now don’t someone just shoot anything! We want big bucks!” “Yeah right, we want venison,” said the others.

Opening weekend temp is 65 and 70 degrees, a couple days of sun and dry and light breeze; nights are comfortable, cool and dry. Too dry for a bonfire. All the fall’s dry leaves cover the ground, crumpling under foot, deep, noisy. Just right. So, walks in woods, sneaking up on deer over the knob won’t work today and tomorrow. Still awesome, this relaxing walk on a sunny warm November afternoon. Walk a while, sit a while. Stoic!

With that in mind, I’m on the deck of my shack at 5 o’clock Friday evening, the western sky at dusk a haze of blues and grays and orange/pink. Most all the trees are barren save for two red oaks down the hill, their leaves a red blaze with the setting sun. Squirrels are everywhere: up trees, down trees, burying acorns, stealing acorns, raising rackets. getting closer to the deck, raising hell on me. Red squirrels especially! Blue jays and chickadees and woodpeckers don’t give a hoot, just lighting limb to limb.

Down the bottom of this hill, across the beaver creek swamp below their dam, up the next hill and over, you can see the full distance through the bare trees. See to another beaver pond over the next hill. Hills and woods and swamps and beaver ponds, and deer everywhere, just can’t see them this evening. It’ll be a good weekend and I hope to see a deer to shoot and there’s always another cooler day if I don’t. Hopefully, a day 30 degrees cooler to hang a few days.

Later. So today is the second Friday afternoon of the season. I didn’t get a shot last week either from my stand or taking a break putting up wood. High hopes tomorrow. Walking! No deep dry rustling leaves to announce “I’m here!” This evening, it’s sunny, windy, 30 degrees cooler and what’s left of a 10-inch snow earlier in the week. Sleep in the shack, up at five, coffee and roll and onto the frosty deck for a hour or two.

Then I’m walking on snow for the day. Stop here and there to brush snow off a stump or deadfall and sit, walk and sit. Cover some ground between hills and top of hills and hopefully get a shot. And dress light. Orange.

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