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In The Course of The Rising Mist - by George D. Stout


In The Course of The Rising Mist
By George D. Stout

    I tugged at my collar to soften the bite of the cold fog that was rising from
the moss-covered slope.   Although the weather was mild, the cool November
morning’s bite was evident on my bare neck as the sun began to rise along with
the mist into a gray-blue heaven.  The warmth of the fleece collar brought me
back in focus and I once again began to peruse the horizon for the elusive

    My lemonwood longbow lay across my lap as I sit with my back against a fairly
large red oak tree.  My blind was a cluster of scrub maple and witch hazel
bushes that grow in prolific quantity around the small creek that traverses
this patch of deer woods.  I’m watching a well-worn deer trail that comes from
the ridge top above my stand and extends to several distant farm fields.
Directly across the little creek a lesser-used path intersects and joins the
main trail;  this obscure side road is used by several bucks that call this
area their home.  I don’t really expect to see decent bucks on the main trail
but you never know.  Pennsylvania deer are always unpredictable.

     I once again drift into a semiconscious state but am quickly brought back to
reality by a snapping twig across the creek.  It’s a buck, probably eighteen
months old and sporting a little four point rack.  It is carelessly moseying
along paying little attention to the surroundings, or so it seems as it hits
the main trail and heads on toward the fields a quarter mile distant. If it
can make it through a season or two it will surely not be so casual in its
woods’ demeanor in the future.  Like humans, a buck’s youth is a time of
learning,  however the consequences of failing are much more severe and final.
I watch after the deer until it is gone from my sight.  Again I’m alone with the
creek and the rising mist.

    As I tinker with the rawhide wrapping on my longbow’s handle I am again drawn
back to the trail.  Another of the woods residents has decided to pass by my
vantage point near the creek.  It is a red fox and it seems to be noticing the
trail of the buck that passed  earlier.  It could be that it simply is scenting
the trail to see what other critters have left their odorous molecules about,
kind of an airborne menu if you will from which an alert predator may select
its dinner choices.   Unlike the buck, the fox notices something in the air
that does not suit its tastes.  As our gazes meet, reality sets in and the
canine swaps ends and bolts back through the brush at breakneck speed.  Again
I relax and stretch my legs while the woods are still. Nothing is moving except
for the water in the small creek twenty yards or so below the brush patch that
hides my presence.  It’s a little after seven-thirty and the sunbeams are
starting to breach the horizon on the east side of the ridge.  The rays of the
rising sun pull at the creek bank and draw the mist toward the sky.

    With a quiet zip I open up a pocket in my fleece fanny pack and withdraw my
bottle of water.  A quick drink as I look over my wooded realm sates my thirst
for the time being.  I slip the bottle back into the pack and again stretch my
muscles, now tight from sitting in one position for about one and a half-hours.

  The air is starting to warm now and I loosen the collar that had to be
tightened an hour earlier.  Again, I settle in to see what happens next.

    The next two hours pass quickly but uneventfully and I rise from my hiding
place and gingerly get my tingling feet back in usable condition.  I pick up my
longbow, strap my fanny pack onto my waist and walk down to the creek. I run my
fingers in the water, back and forth, just to feel the temperature and take in
another sense of the area.  This creek has a spring feed up the mountain so it
is never deplete of water, although many years it’s sparse at best. This year
Mother Nature was gracious and it carries a quantity that is sufficient for the
local critters to grab a drink and quench their thirst.  It also changes the
deer’s habits when it has ample flow, since it keeps them from having to travel
another quarter mile or so to the main creek, one of the reasons why I chose to
sit here this morning.

    I adjust my pack and make a right onto the path the buck followed earlier in
the morning.  Back-trailing through the brush I walk into a rub line that
borders a small meadow.  Actually, it’s kind of a staging area where the deer
gather before moving on to the fields by the big creek.   Perhaps the deer meet
here to discuss the day’s ruminations and plan evening entertainment.   More
than likely they stop here to nibble and rest, to test the wind and listen to
what the evening forest has to say to them before traveling on to evening
supper.  This is the time of the rut, however, so things can happen quickly and
without much warning, so I pay particular attention to the sounds of the

    I walk the trail for about forty yards or so, watching for those signs of the
rut; fresh rubs, newly thrown dirt from boundary scrapes....any change in the
status quo of the woods.  As I approach the first field next to the woods I can
see a deer  near the middle of the pasture.  It is a buck and is hastily making
its way toward my position.  I quickly formulate a plan, test the wind and back
off about twenty yards from the trail.  Quickly removing my fanny pack, I hunker
down within shooting range of the trail.  All I can do now is wait and watch.

    I can hear the buck  as it approaches my position by the path.  The whitetail
is in in a bit of a hurry and ignores the red oak acorns that lay all about the
leaf litter.  I am hunched over onto my knees and have the longbow a quarter
drawn as the buck steps into my first window.  Still somewhat facing me it is
too soon to attempt a shot...about ten more steps would be good. Patience may
provide a broadside situation, much more desirable than quartering toward or
away; anyway there is no hurry as the buck is unaware of my presence.

    Time seems to stand still as the buck momentarily stops, looking back over its
body toward the field.    Finally it moves forward several more steps and tests
the air for any prevailing scent.  As it takes another step my bowstring is at
my cheek and I’m frantically trying to pick a spot, both on the deer and
through the seam between the scrub. Suddenly the buck stops behind some brush
and the hairs rise on the back of its neck.  There’s no time for a shot as the
buck turns and runs back through the hazel brush in the direction of the ridge
top.   As quickly as it began, it was over and the woods were again silent.

    I just sit there dumbfounded.  There was no vagrant breeze on the back of my
neck to warn the sound or movement to give away my hiding place.
Apparently the old sixth sense kicked in and I just got busted.  Plain and
simple.  My emotions at a time such as this run the gamut from exuberance to
melancholy; knowing that I came so close to taking one of the most clever
animals in the woods with a stick and string, yet feeling kind of a let-down
that another chance has passed uneventfully.  I’m sure this feeling is a
natural one and is shared by many a hunter and I’m also equally sure it’s based
solely on a deep respect and admiration for the quarry.   When the reality of
the situation becomes clear I allow myself a smile and an excuse or two;  it
was the buck’s day today, maybe tomorrow  would be mine.

    As I look around, the last traces of the morning mist have risen above the
canopy and the air is clear.  There are no cheering crowds nor are there any
castigating jeers from other forest critters.  Everything that happened here
this morning was simply a rerun of happenings of the past, natural occurrences
between predator and prey.  It is a scene that has been played out for
millenniums within the confines of nature’s wild lands.  Yet the morning is
still young and there is no need to hurry.  The longbow is not a burden and my
legs are fresh.  I loosen my collar and start up the ridge.


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