Eyes of a Hunter

January 7, 2008
By danny rathsburg, Clarkston, MI

As I peer through the eyes of a hazed out old man I look at the beauty of the forest. The sun warming my back as it rises over the trees. The fog in the field starts to clear; a plume of smoke puffs from the old mans mouth. The birds all around talking to each other. The trees start to make noises to each other as the silence becomes defining. The green, brown, and gray colors of the forest turn to orange, blue, and red. My eyes strain to stay open as the colors are almost blinding. “Their out there I know they are” comes from the old mans mouth. The sky turns to red and the grass is blue, another plume of smoke comes from the old mans mouth. I think to myself, what is he seeing? Is this what the forest looks like to him? This is like an acid trip! A loud noise breaks my concentration.

To my left I could hear the branches rustling, a branch cracks. As I slowly turned my head to the right I see a deer about sixty yards out. It is about one hundred and sixty pounds, and has an eight point rack on its head. I had to keep my mouth from drooling over this spectacular peaceful beast. I raise the gun slowly and look down the barrel. I exhale and a noise scares the deer.
The alarm breaks the silence of the dark musty cabin. My eyes slowly look over towards the red letters of the alarm clock, five am. The pillow is wet from my mouth drooling. I think wow that would have been a nice deer then I think of the acid trip dream I had, crazy. The alarm continues till I turn over and stand to take two steps over to the table to turn it off. As I turn around to go back to the couch I was sleeping on, and I realize the fire is almost out in the fire place. I walk over and throw another log on the fire. My dad appears from the bedroom.

“Ready to get one today?” he says in a very tired voice. I thought about the four times I have sat out in the freezing cold and not seen a damn thing.

“Sure, if I see one.” I replied sarcastically. My Uncle Danny and Uncle Jerry at the same time came into the room from opposite sides of the cabin. They both move slowly as to avoid walking into anything in the darkness. I realized this and turned on the kitchen light as I walked in to find a little snack.

“So where are you going to sit today?” Uncle Danny asks as a general question to everyone.

“Bull Gap.” Dad says. A sleepy voice comes from the bedroom

“I’m going with you dad to Bull Gap.” My brother says.

“I think I will go and sit with you up at Bull Gap again.” I reply with a half mouth full of orange juice.
Uncle Jerry says something about sitting on the back of the property, but he was in the other room and I couldn’t really make out what he said. I finish in the kitchen and walk over to the coat rack and slip my bright orange over all pants and coat off the hanger. I have always wondered if the deer could see the huge neon orange blob sitting twenty yards from them. But I will never know the answer to that; not in my life time.

“So are you almost ready to go?” dad asks me. I slide the overalls on and check the pockets to make sure I have everything. Bullets, permit, flash light, knife, gloves, hat, and my grandpas whistle my dad gave to me.

“Yeah let’s roll.” I say
As I take a few steps out the door the freezing air enters my lungs and feels like ice coating my lungs. I cough a little. Marty, dad and I get into the truck where the guns have been all night. We follow Uncle Danny out to Bull Gap and park on the side of the road. I yawn and stretch as I stand up from inside the truck.
“The stars are out, so is the moon.” Marty says.
I reply “Hey good job, do you want a metal?” He shoves me a little as I laugh. I grab my Uncle Danny’s Thirty Thirty out from the case and put some bullets in the magazine. My dad gets his gun out and racks a few. I look over to where I will be sitting and trying to find a way to get through the heavy brush. I look over the bed of the truck and see the chair I have been using; I grab it and throw it over my left shoulder and the rife on the other. I have the rife on my right shoulder so if when I’m walking in and scare a deer I could drop the chair and shoot quickly.
“Good luck boys!” I say as I take the first step into the brush. I flick on the flashlight and make my way threw the heavy brush. I think about how it will feel to actually kill something for the first time. I picture over and over a huge eight point stopped dead in its tracks and look up at my eye gazing down the barrel through the sights.
“I’m about to take your life.” I say to myself right as soon as a branch swings and hits me in the face. Well that’s enough to wake anyone up! I take my glove off and touch my face with my bare hand. One of my fingers has a bit of blood, oh well I think to myself. Just another day in the “up north wild”. As I push branches and leaves out of my way I think of all the noise I am making. I wonder how long the sounds travel. If a deer a hundred yards away can hear me will it turn around and walk away? I try to step lightly and not brush up against anything. As I flash the light around I find the clearing. As I look up slightly to the ridge I look down at the clearing I am in now I think of what it would look like to a deer to see a hunter from here. I realize that it would be really hard to see a hunter from up there if they were hidden correctly. I continue my way to the top of the ridge, it seems like it is so far away because of all the stuff I have to carry. I reach the top and look over to the other side of the ridge. There is a heavy Curtain of steam hanging over the low laying brush and trees. It’s funny how it moves so slowly and just stays there. The chair is pulling on my shoulder so I set it down and open the bag. It’s a folding chair with a back rest. I face it towards the clearing with my back to the other side of the ridge and turn off the flashlight. I sit and place the rifle across my lap. I take my gloves off and unzip my coat a little so I can stick my hands in my arm pits to keep them warm so when that huge eight point walks out in to the clearing I will have warm and steady hands to hold the killer weapon.

Now the silence sets in, it’s almost defining how quiet it is. The stars are still up in the sky with the moon fading away. I try to find the big dipper and Ursa Minor both searches successful. My watch reads six a.m. the sun should be coming up in about forty-five minutes. Now its time just to sit and wait so I can see what I will be shooting. As everything turns from black and gray to green and gray the sun rays just start to hit the tree tops. I can see the sun rising over my shoulder. Just as the sun hit the tops of the trees birds started chirping everywhere, they were all around me. I thought wow I was awake before the birds were. A smile grew on my face a little. It was the little birds at first but then I started to hear the bigger birds like hawks and crows. The forest began to wake up. To everything going by it was like I was there all night because they were sleeping when I came in.

I start to feel the cold morning getting to my toes. They are always the first thing to go numb, following them are my nose and ears. I sit and watch the sun slowly creep down the trees across the clearing. The sun hits my back like an instant heater, goose bumps fly up and down my body, I shiver a little. I hear a car passing on the road; it slowly fades into the distance. It’s getting to have been a long time; I pull my sleeve up and look at my watch, eight forty-five. I normally start for the truck at nine thirty. Nothing again, this spot sucks or something I think to myself. Just as the thought passes out of my mind I hear a branch break to my left. Slowly I look to the left, about thirty yards away stands a six-point buck. The deer blends into the trees and brush around it. The thought passes through my mind that maybe it is just a figment of my imagination. After sitting and straining my eyes for hours looking for deer I start to see “deer” but they are just made up of branches and bushes. It lifts its head, it’s real! The eyes stare right towards me. He looks down and starts to munch on some grass. The wind is a calm breeze, the sun is just over the tree tops, and the light cent of campfire smoke finds my nose. All I need is for him to turn a little towards me and that deer is mine. A thought passes through my mind as I raise the rifle; this is that deer’s last moments in his life. It all rides on the fact if he turns or walks the other way. He turns. My heart beets my eyes blink and I exhale as I pull the trigger. The deer jumps a little and then falls right where it was standing. I tell myself not to move, wait till it is dead. I wait for five minutes and walk over to it. By that time my dad came out from his blind and said

“Nice deer, and a damn good shot to!” I look over to him and he has a smile on his face. He is proud.

“Yeah it feels good to finally have one.” I tell him. He looks to me again and says with a smile

“Now we have to wait for Uncle Danny to come because I don’t know how to gut a deer. It’s been to long!” I laugh as I see Uncle Danny walking through the brush. We gutted the deer and pulled it to the truck and headed back to the cabin. On the way back I started thinking about listening to the forest wake up. I thought that this was the most amazing thing I had ever experienced and to be able to take a thing of beauty from nature seemed like a sin. I turned my head and looked back into the bed of the truck where the deer was resting. His face was facing me with a little blood coming out of his noise and mouth. His eyes were all glazed over. I thought of how long I waited to take a life of an innocent creature, and the actual feeling of power that was accompanied by it. It felt good to have accomplished what I was set out to do, Find and Kill.

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