Its October 26 on a Monday, a week before the opening day of deer season in south eastern Ontario and here I sit, anxiously awaiting for the week to pass. Sitting at my laptop, I can’t think of a single thing to do aside from scour the internet in search of pictures of big bucks or to Oogle the aerial imagery for the property I will be hunting in a week. As if either task could provide any more insight to me than the 100 hours or so I’ve already spent or could somehow make the week disappear quicker.
Restless would be a good descriptor of my current condition, anxious too, but definitely restless. Restlessness that will only be worsened by the score of photos making the internet rounds from all those lucky SOBs who archery hunt and by the numerous trail cam pictures that seem to be attracted to my Facebook feed like a hunter to an outdoors store. Its a steady build up all weeklong, finally reaching its peak the night before opener making the prospect of sleep a cruel joke. I tell you, the whole thing is enough to drive any sane person crazy. But I guess that’s a good thing in a way. After all you have to be crazy to don the customary camo and blaze orange at an hour that is ridiculously earlier than necessary just to sit in your car at a parking lot that serves as a meeting point only to wait for the normal deer hunters to arrive at a more civilized hour, all the while trying to sip a hot drink with shaky hands and sleep deprived nerves.
Funny though, I’m usually not alone in that parking lot spilling my coffee and hovering over my gear like a mother over her new born. I’m not just talking about my buddy whom I usually pick up either. In fact, if someone had the inclination to get up that early and walk by the decidedly rural location where we hunt, they would likely see a cluster of red taillights breaking the early morning darkness. They would likely see the occasional blaze orange vest and ghostly outline of a hunter illuminated by the taillights as he checked his gear. They would see the miniscule dot of light from two to or three of my fellow hunters cigarettes as they rhythmically jumped from waist height to mouth height in a desperate attempt to pass the time. Intrigued, they might even move closer to hear the chit chat between us about our regular lives, or maybe the anxious rattle of the dogs in their cages where they sit mounted on the back of an old pickup. They would hear the jokes and hear us exchange stories like they we were long lost brothers all the while watching the last few “normal” folks arrive….late.
In our specific case, some of these members of our crew are brothers. In fact, most of the members are related making me the interloper who had only met them for the first time last year on opening day. As intimidating as that sounds, not knowing them didn’t seem to matter all that much. It didn’t matter when, the stranger to the group (me), broke our cold streak and took down the first deer of the season, and my first deer ever. They were more than happy to lend several sets of very experienced hands to extract the animal from the bush and to assist with the hard work that followed. They seemed delighted to share the hard earned knowledge they accumulated over a lifetime of hunting. Happier still, were they to provide a squelchy chorus of congratulations over the two way radio for the hunter who had broke the cold streak that season and who had claimed a nice 8 point for his first. No matter where each had come from, these folks were brothers in arms and it showed. Fellow hunters in search of the same 14 point dream that draws each of us to wake up each year at ungodly hours in pursuit. Fellow hunters who would be just as happy for a brother to bag a buck as they would be if they were the ones to pull the trigger. Well maybe not just as happy, but damn close.
But why do we do it? Simple. Its eloquent and honourable (at least in our group), yet visceral and primal. Its a truly real experience in an increasingly more digital world. Its totally analog and soaked in history and tradition. An experience worthy of kings and accessible by the lowliest poor schmuck. And above all else, the outcome tastes fantastic in just about any dish imaginable.
In case you weren’t counting down for some strange reason, it’s only 6 days, 23 hours, 9 minutes away….
Cheers from my desk,