Trad Gang

Topic Archives => Articles/Stories => Topic started by: Terry_Green on May 24, 2003, 06:20:00 PM

Title: A Season of Contentment - by Chuck DeLeeuw
Post by: Terry_Green on May 24, 2003, 06:20:00 PM
A Season of Contentment

by Chuck DeLeeuw


Sitting quietly in my stand on this cold November afternoon, I watched two does feeding slowly towards me. Two week’s worth of bowhunting at the cabin was coming to an end and I was day dreaming the time away, taking it all in.

   It had been a good time. My nephew and son-in-law had taken does, my good friend and hunting partner had taken a doe and a nice buck. My daughter, with her time being somewhat limited, had not been successful but she did see deer each time out. I had been fortunate enough to take two does. I had been pleased with the shots everyone had taken but more so with the results…all of them, including two with my Widow, had been perfect. None of the deer taken had gone more than 50-60 yards from the stands. No long blood trails this year.
   While it had been a fun two weeks, something seemed different this year. Something had changed, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I wondered if I had lost my intensity, my passion for the hunt. I obviously loved being out there and I thought about the idea that maybe it was an “age thing”. Maybe I was just a little tired out.
   As usual, much of my time prior to and during the two weeks had been spent preparing stands for others and scouting for new ones. While I obviously enjoyed the time I spent hunting, the success that others enjoyed because of my efforts brought me a great deal of satisfaction…more so than usual. While hunting, I found myself thinking more and more about what was happening with the others while they were hunting…more anxious than usual to hear a “report” back at the truck. The time I had with my kids seemed more precious than ever, now that they were married or in college. For the most part, they had their own lives now.

   I had particularly enjoyed the fact that once again this year my wife Gail had been able to spend a great deal of the time with me at the cabin. Her company, as usual, added something special to the occasion and I was glad to have her there with me. While she did not hunt, she always enjoyed being “up north” and her enthusiasm for those of us who did hunt was characteristic and typical. Although it seemed somewhat strange to me, truthfully, on several occasions when I returned to the cabin after bringing others out to stands, I wasn’t really feeling as though I was “missing out” on anything in order to spend a little time with her. I found it enjoyable to sit quietly, watch deer at the feeder and just chat. This fall had been a whole new experience for us after our youngest had left for Hope College. It gave us a little time to talk about the idea of being “empty nesters”. Though it was different, we were enjoying it.

   I had to admit, I missed having Charlie there at the cabin with us enormously. This year, his roommate, classmates and teachers would share his sense of humor. He did manage to call every night for updates on what was happening, but I think it was as much or more to indulge his mom who missed him terribly. The connection between those two is one that I obviously appreciate, but only understood and cherished by other moms with sons.  

   As much as I had hoped that my daughter would have been able to “get a crack” at one, this fall it was just not meant to be. Married now, a nurse and very involved in her church, her time was limited. How much I enjoyed having her up north with us, even if it was just for a few days. From the time she was just a little girl she shared my enthusiasm for bowhunting and for that I was grateful. My all-time favorite hunting partner, we had shared a lot of happy moments while hunting or fishing and while sitting there that afternoon I thought about a lot of them. She has taken her share of deer over the years, but no matter what, she always has a smile. While preparing and packing for this trip I had once again glanced at the carefully labeled shelves in the basement…Mel’s hunting arrows…Mel’s practice arrows. Even though her arrows no longer fill those shelves, I still have never had the heart to remove the labels and put something else in their place. I keep those spots open now for when she brings arrows home for fletching…after she dips and crests them herself.

   The night my son-in-law shot his deer it was snowing big wet flakes and the leaves were soaked. We had a good blood trail but it seemingly had petered out. As I struggled, my daughter gently asked if she could take the lantern for just a minute and see if she could have any luck locating the trail. I gave her the lantern and stepped back. Within moments she not only found the trail but also the deer. It was one of those moments…while obviously proud of my daughter, at that moment I realized something that bordered on the profound… in the woods, I was no longer her mentor…I was her peer. With my son-in-law being a relative newcomer to bowhunting, we rejoiced in his success. But it was somewhat awkward and I couldn’t figure out why.

   As usual, my dad spent some time with us as well. No stranger to the cabin at other times of the year, he enjoys being there during bow season as well and even though he hunts very little anymore, he certainly enjoys sharing in the success of his kids and grandkids.  What I have come to appreciate about my dad is that while he recognizes kids need a certain amount of gratification when hunting, he understands that encouragement can quickly turn into pressure and he knows when to back off. With barely a word spoken, he puts things in perspective, conveying a reassuring message that whether or not you kill a deer with a bow and arrow is not going to have much of an impact upon your life’s endeavors. A lesson that I am gradually learning.

   While delighted with the accomplishments of my son-in-law and nephew, I could not have been more thrilled with the success of my long time friend when he took a doe one night and a nice buck the very next – both in stands I had found and setup. He has been more than a friend to me over the years and not only knows more about bow hunting than anyone I know, he also has taught me a lot about life even though we are both the same age. Watching our kids grow up together, sharing experiences has meant a great deal to me over the years and after taking me under his bowhunting wing many, many years ago, nothing made me happier than his success. While over the years we have shared many great times both hunting and not necessarily hunting, I can’t think of a time that topped those couple of days.

    My thoughts turned to my little beagle that was no doubt, at that very moment, sleeping comfortably in front of the wood burner. She was my constant companion not only at home but also at the cabin. Both during the hunting seasons and at other times of the year, her little legs logged more miles in the Luther Swamp than mine. She was never far behind. But she was getting older and after two bouts with cancer, I knew her time was running out. I wondered if this would be her last fall at the cabin. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. What would those rides in the truck “up north” or those walks around the cabin, out in the swamp be like without her?

   As I sat there that night, reflecting upon the past two weeks, I thought a lot about life and how things change. About the variety of stages we go through, the idea that life has it’s seasons as well. The feelings of the last couple weeks that I had finally taken the time to explore began to make sense. It dawned on me that the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing were those of contentment and fulfillment, not those of a lost desire or intensity. Probably for the first time in life I understood what David was trying to say in Psalm 16:6 when he said, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places: surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Indeed, for Gail and I, they had and I was grateful, satisfied, and content. I hadn’t lost anything; I was just beginning to appreciate it all more completely.

   Suddenly, wakened from my lack of concentration, the two does glanced in my direction and quickly exited the scene. I had no idea why, especially because I was downwind of them. It wasn’t long before I discovered the reason for their hasty retreat. I could hear the sound of another deer moving through the cattails and muck behind me. Not daring to turn and look behind, instinctively my fingers tightened the grip on my string. Seconds later, directly below me was the buck who’s scrapes I was hunting over. Nose outstretched testing the wind, he moved slowly ahead. Now broadside and slightly quartering away at no more than 12 yards, I slowly drew. The last thought I could remember was to stay focused on that little spot just behind his shoulder and three seconds later I heard a crash in the swamp. Knowing it was over as quickly as it had begun, I composed myself, gathered my pack and lowered my bow to the ground.  

   Moments later I knelt over the buck and gave thanks for the experience and for a quick, clean kill. No euphoric celebration, but certainly no loss of desire or intensity either. Just contentment. Just fulfillment. Just a passing…from one season of life to the next.