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Author Topic: It’s The Little Things - by George D. Stout  (Read 373 times)

Offline Terry_Green

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It’s The Little Things - by George D. Stout
« on: May 16, 2003, 06:23:00 AM »
It’s The Little Things

by George D. Stout

        I was quite surprised by the appearance of the whitetail buck.  I had
just entered the woods from the tram road and was ill-prepared for a meeting of
this type.  He was not aware of my presence; on the contrary, he was busy
snuffling acorns and beechnuts from  beneath the newly fallen leaves  and
seemed oblivious to his surroundings.  In all fairness, the wind was blowing
fairly briskly and covered many of the sounds that intruders would normally
make.  Estimating his age to be just one and a half years old I chose to let
him do his thing and see how close I could stalk before he realized I was in
his house.  

        The day itself was sunny and beautiful.  It was the first week of
October and season had just begun here in the Pennsylvania woods.   Mr. buck
was eating his way toward a cut-over that supplied good cover for a whitetail
to lay up and ruminate the morning’s findings.  His demeanor was one of a
teenager who was trying to eat a bunch of candy before dad and mom got home.  
The buck rarely looked up as it bit and crunched at the morsels offered by the
mast trees.   Every now and then he would raise his head and bite down hard on
what appeared to be an extra-tough acorn;  one or two quick glances to see if
anyone was around and then back to his hurried eating.

        As occupied as he appeared to be, it was still difficult to keep pace,
much less gain ground on him.   The whitetail would take three or four steps,
pick up a mouthful of food, then take a few more steps, covering more ground
than I first anticipated.   After nearly forty-five minutes of this stop and go
stalk, I had closed to within about fifteen yards of the unsuspecting deer.  As
he put his head into the leaves once more, I drew the longbow to full draw and
said, “gotcha’ pal!”
   
        I had rather expected the deer to turn itself inside-out getting out of
there, but instead it bolted about twenty steps and stopped.  Looking back to
where it had been standing when startled,  it offered a few head bobs, then
turned and trotted into the brush.  Hopefully this fellow would pay more
attention in the future and make it to the next archery season.  He surely
wouldn’t want to play that same adolescent game during the rifle season.

        After the incident I reminisced to myself about the encounter.  It’s
one of those little intricacies of the hunt that oft times goes unappreciated
yet is as important as dragging a carcass to the truck.   You learn much more
from the ones you don’t get than from the ones that you do.   And, you garner
more from a half-day’s walk in the woods than you ever could from a thousand
printed words and each encounter you make should add positively to your
knowledge cache.   Each meeting is a page in a chapter; each season a chapter
in life’s how-to book.   The sum total of these are what allows us to be
successful and allows for great campfire fodder as well.

        I have always found myself to be a better archer than bowhunter.  Not
that I haven’t had a semblance of success as the latter, but rather I much more
enjoy the art and application of shooting the bow.   At what other pastime can
one become so intrinsically involved in becoming a child again....and get away
with it.  I am still amazed at the flight of an arrow that can travel a hundred
yards and suddenly appear right where I was looking.   The feel of that arrow’s
fletching brushing my cheek on the draw, and my hand on release adds to that
ethereal mindset, as if I’m standing to the side watching it take place.  Then
that “swoosh” as the arrow paradoxes past the bow handle and begins it’s
journey of ambiguity.   It is a compilation of these feelings that takes me to
the big woods on a regular basis.

        The venerable longbow  evokes the most powerful of the atavistic
feelings in this old archer.  I certainly enjoy shooting the recurve bow.  The
sleek design, beautifully curving limbs and smooth draw enhances one’s ability
to be accurate to the highest degree.  However, there is nothing quite like the
heft of a longbow and a back quiver full of arrows to send one back in time.  
At just a hundred yards from the closing of the truck door, time can change,  
and one need not awaken until a return to the parking lot.  It’s an ephemeral
glimpse of the past, in the present, brought to you buy a sport that defies the
ages.

        I have spent hours cavorting with an invisible accomplice in search of
the rascal blue jays among the Pennsylvania ridges.  I could sense his presence
though I could not see him.  I could feel his approval when I made a great shot
and hear the chortles when I broke a cedar arrow on a hard locust limb.  
Sitting on the creek bank with my longbow across my legs, I can imagine being
one of the pioneers of the sport, proving to a doubting public that this stick
and string are weapons to be reckoned with.    ‘Gotta give Glenn a call and see
if he has room for another elk hunter at Trapp Creek next year.  Imagination is
a wonderful thing.  Too bad we usually leave it behind with our childhood.

        One of my favorite times to be in the woods is April.  The last week of
the month brings with it the service berry blossoms, the first to show in the
leafless spring woods.  Shortly after the barberry starts to green-up and the
new shoots pop through the leaves looking for the new growing season.  The
woodchucks are out and beginning a new cycle of life.  Many of them have young
in their burrows and need to get sustenance to get them growing and on their
own as soon as possible.  Morrell mushrooms may  be found among the hardwoods
and the turkeys are gobbling in the hollows.  The smell of new plant life is
invigorating and makes for a pleasant environment in which to shoot the bow.  

        Little things, like finding the source of a spring that you never knew
existed;  the nest and egg clutch of a Ruffed Grouse; skunk cabbage just
starting to protrude from the moist forest floor,  all are precious moments
that we may only visit a few times in our entire life.  The sound of water
running over a limestone stream bed attracts one to further investigate its
surroundings.  A deeper pool in the little stream houses some Black Nosed Dace,
a favorite food for Brook Trout that inhabit the lower regions of this creek.  
Brushing away at the leaf litter may find a Northern Salamander looking for its
lunch, or possibly a girlfriend.  These side bars are like pages in a new
chapter.  Each are relevant to the other in terms of importance and are filed
in the memory banks.  

        As I stand and look around, I notice that the woods is beginning to
leaf-out.  In another two weeks visibility will be cut in half; leaves will be
more prominent and the open glades will be ankle high in new growth.   Some of
the old stumps will be sprouting plant growth from the seedlings that were
carried to them by chipmunks or simply  deposited there by the natural winds in
these ridges.   The old dead stumps will serve as sustenance to help grow a new
generation of hardwoods like cherry or maple.   The forest is a paradigm for
self-sustaining environments.  Nothing ever goes to waste here, nature finds a
use for every life form, even in its final stages.

        The swamp that lies here in the bottom of the hollow is full of spring
peepers.  They appear magically this time of year to sing and procreate, and
sing they do.  At times it’s almost deafening when you are close quarters to
the singing.  As the daylight grows dim the singing crescendos to nearly a
fever pitch.  There’s no time to waste in this wild environment, future
generations of peepers require a hasty romantic relationship for them to
survive.

        The afternoon has waned and I now must head back to the parking lot, a
walk through several time zones until I again arrive back a the truck and in
the present.   The stumps once again become a priority to the archer.  Shots
reign across the valleys and up the ridges, some connecting and some missing;  
some ending up under the leaves to spend their eternity.   As I near the last
turn in the tram road I must bid goodbye to my hunting partners for the day.  
They will stay in the past until I come back in a day or two and hook up with
them again.  

        As I round the bend and see the pickup I know where I am once more.  
It’s really not so bad returning to the present; there’s a lot of folks here
that I love and every now and then they can join me in one of my journeys, and
that even makes the trip more special.   Here’s to you Mr. Thompson.  I’ll see
you next week.

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