January 14, 2008
By Steven Preskitt, Glen Allen, VA

The stars still shine brightly above the freezing air behind the shadowy trees. The wind blows the crunchy, dry leaves into a swirl and carries them past my face with a graceful quickness. A whippoorwill chants its last song of the night signifying the coming of the day. My nose is cold among the tasty freeze, but inside, I contain a cozy feeling that keeps me calm, but excited. By the time I settle in the leaves against a majestic white oak, the stars begin to blend in with the changing light that foreshadows the inevitable dawn.

Slowly, the woods begin to awaken with life. Song birds flutter by and sing in a tune that seems directed toward me. A squirrel chatters as he scampers down from his den to search for his awaiting acorn breakfast. Shapes of rocks, limbs, and blow-downs begin to appear right before my eyes. The browns, yellows, and oranges of Autumn have now all reached their final resting point, except for the occasional change in place due to wind gust.

My camouflage attire blends not just my body, but my soul, into my surroundings. Here I am not out of place. I am a tree, a leaf, and a rock all at once. I am just another part of nature. Suddenly without warning, the leaves crunch under the particular placement of footsteps. Chh! Chh! Chh! I get in the ready position. No, not them. I lay my shooting iron back down flat on my lap and gaze in amazement at the whitetail’s habits. It is only a doe and two fawns. They trot down the bluff in my direction in hot pursuit of the much desired acorn, oblivious to my presence. As they continue toward me, they slow and appear to have arrived at the breakfast table.

Currently, the icy wind blows over me in my favor, keeping me concealed from their noses. But will it shift and end my entertainment for the morning? Out of nowhere, another deer arrives hot on their track. Yes! It is what I have been patiently waiting for! The buck’s snow white antlers tower over his ears and bob up and down as he lopes toward his desired female. But she is not ready. She resists and starts to gallop in the other direction away from me with her babies right behind her. Without question, he chases after her. My opportunity is fading fast. In a split second, they are all nearly out of range. I raise my gun and try to lead the buck as he leaves, but the attempt is futile. My chance has come and gone.

As I set my gun back on my lap, I am disappointed, but realize what my granddad has taught me. “That’s the way it goes.” He always says. A grin grows on my face and I snicker at the exciting encounter that I have just endured. He’s right. Half the fun is the chase and the sightings you have, not just the shooting. “Better luck next time,” I think to myself. I rest my head back on the tree and prepare for my midday nap. This is my country. This is my way of life. Hunting.

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