My Uncle Dan came up for a visit over Thanksgiving with a plan to do as much hunting as possible during his trip. Having grown up in Vermont and NH he knows what the hunting is like but still enjoys coming back at least every other year to freeze his tail off and see very few deer. I was excited to be able to hunt with him this year but got more excited when that 4 pointer was in my scope before he got here and filled my tag. So, I hunted in Vermont while he chased the elusive "Big One" all over the countryside by himself in New Hampshire. On one cold morning in Particular he had a rather fun encounter with the "Little One" and decided to write up a story about it. So here now is the tale of a cold morning in the woods by my Uncle Dan Biebel.
Guest Post: Dan Biebel
Hunting from and Old Timers Perspective
As a former westerner (Wyoming) who spent about 35 years reducing the elk, deer, and antelope populations and feeding the family with the spoils (and hanging a few sets of antlers on the wall) I made the mistake of moving to Florida about 11 years ago. Florida is okay, the winters are nice, and it does offer some great fishing, deer, and hog hunting, but during the fall it is too hot to even think about hunting. How much fun can a hunter have wandering around in a tee shirt, sweating away, swatting flies, the other 10,000 or so species of bugs, not too mention being on alert for the fire ants and snakes? In addition, I have to ask the another rhetorical question: Is it really hunting if you aren’t wearing 4 layers of clothes and still shivering while you sit on your stand? So I have been unable to conjure up the desire to hunt in Florida.
So, for the past 11 years, except for a few trips to Wyoming, I have spent the October/November evenings watching the “outdoor channel” and, this year, reading your blog. This allows me to live out my “outdoor self” through other people shown on the TV or the ones who write real life stories for your blog and helps me get through the hunting season. I have come to the conclusion that the people on the TV are not real, but, rather, imposters who hunt deer that are on steroids. But the stories on your blog are real, written by people, working people, who have no special access, and who get a kick out of hunting and spending time with their kids outside. There are a few deer, however, I think you call them the “tailgate up” group seemed like the magnifying glass type, but there were some nice ones taken and I enjoyed reading all the stories and seeing the pictures.
After reading several of the stories I realized that most of them were written by the “younger set” and, although nicely written and interesting, I thought a few stories by some real old timers could offer a different, colorful, perspective, and a more detailed and complete picture that shows why old timers get so much out of their hunting experience, while the younger guys are a little shallow and maybe too “locked-in” on “getting a deer” that they miss some of the point. This story, my story of a weeklong Thanksgiving trip to NH this year, is sort of my way of sharing the “other details” that show the opportunities/ challenges that a 61 year old hunting addict enjoys and make the experience that much richer. Never mind that I didn’t get a deer and that’s why I have to share the other details, but whatever.......
Let me just choose one day of the weeklong hunt to share. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and it was supposed to be cold and windy. Not having a clue about where to go, I stayed awake a little longer the night before (30 seconds or so) trying to figure out where the deer would go to get out of the wind. After answering “who knows”, “we’ll see in the morning”, I went to sleep and woke up before the alarm about 4:45 AM. Not wanting to wake my wife up, I had put my hunting stuff out in the living room the night before, I stumbled around the room in the dark, finally making it to the door, when she said “How come you’re getting up so early?”. I told her I was already awake, not alluding to the fact the my prostate/bladder combination was involved in the waking up process, the old man’s alarm clock.
So I hustled down to the bathroom, relieved myself, and then out to the coffee maker to refill, which I did, and it was nice to feel the warmth as the coffee flowed down into my internals. So I filled a bowl with some cereal and milk and took it to the living room to eat while I was getting dressed. Longjohns first, turtleneck, camo pants, and socks, two pair. What is that tinkling sound? I look out the window, it’s dark, turn on the outdoor light and the wind chimes are horizontal, not a good sign. Thermometer reads 7 degrees. Should I go back to bed? No, I am a real man so I am going out there and be miserable with the rest of them while I can still do this. So I go up stairs and head to the mudroom where the rest of my attire is waiting. First the boots. Thankfully, my nephew (that would be you Tim) had loaned me his warmest pair, which was 2 sizes too big but allowed for that extra set of socks. Perfect. Then on with the heavier turtleneck sweater all the way to the chin, coveralls zipped all the way up and then down the leg to the ankles, then the heavy coat. Now I looked like the camouflaged Michelin Man, I was ready to go. Wait a second, what is that? Call of the wild already?
Like most people I have certain “routines” that appropriately mark time as I pass through life. For me that means on opening day of hunting season, sometime in the first 200 yards I will have to squat somewhere over a log. At this point I usually confirm that the season is officially open. But not today. Today it would be after I took the coat off, the coveralls, turtleneck sweater and boots, and went back downstairs, to basically start all over. Afterward, I went back to the mudroom and got repackaged and ready to walk out the door. After pulling the turtleneck sweater over the head and getting everything else on that I had before, I found my hat, gloves, and started to walk out the door when I had this “OMG moment” when I realized that I didn’t have my glasses so I spent 10 minutes looking for them. I was about to take my boots off so I could look around the house, and when I bent over to unlace them my glasses fell off my face where they had been the whole time. No problem, nobody saw it, let’s go outdoors. This is the reason old timers get up before the alarm clock. They need the extra time. Just sayin........
So I walk out into the garage and get the Ruger .270, load it up, and walk outside. I am fortunate that I am staying with my sister and husband who live on a farm and can just walk out the door to hunt. This is when the wind hit me dead in the face at 7 degrees temperature and this Florida boy was having second thoughts. No. I am a real man and I am going out there and be miserable like the rest of them while I can still do this. I can't remember, did I already say that? Now that I know the direction of the wind I fashion a plan to walk down the road to the bottom of the hill by the Sugarhouse and nestle up on the leeward side of the cliff, warmup a stump, and see if a deer will have similar ideas. Good plan, and if it doesn’t work, back to the house for a warm breakfast and a nap.
So I start down the hill on the road, hoping no one driving by stops and berates me for being an “animal murderer’. Things are a little more liberal around here than they used to be. While mulling over what my response should be, I make it about halfway down the hill and the prostate decides it wants a little more attention so I have to unzip the coat, unzip the coveralls, pull down the drawers and relieve myself, not to mention the threat of frostbite to a, still kind of important, part of the anatomy. I survived it, got back together and continued down the hill. When I got to the old logging road leading to the sugarhouse there was a large log to step over, so I did, and my right foot rolled/slipped on something. I looked down and there was a coyote laying, snuggled up to the log. Having just experienced something wonderful and new, and after having come down from a 2 feet jump in the air, and 2 “what the.....?” I have to say I was thankful the furry guy was not of the living variety, not to mention how impressed that I was that I could still jump like that. Must be the fresh air. Getting myself together, I started up the road to the sugarhouse once again. Did I say up? When I was younger I never noticed this was up. Stopping 3 times to figure out where that wheezing noise and the “thumping” was coming from, and not able to figure it out, I moved on around the cliff trying to find a spot where I could see a little ways. It doesn't look the same in the dark but after a couple of detours I figured out where the trail was going.
It was barely breaking light when I got over the stone wall and went down into a hemlock area which seemed rather quiet and the wind was coming into my face, but bearable. I found a large tree to lean against and stood there for a few minutes when I realized that I really needed to be near that other tree about 50 yards further up so I moved over there. Repeating this two more times I finally found one that looked like a good spot so I cleared out some leaves to make a quiet spot to stand. Hardly finished, I heard.... crunch, crunch, crunch. Crap, here comes another hunter right below me. Was I really supposed to cross that last stone wall? More stress. Is that my bowels moving again? Crunch, crunch, crunch. Where is that sound coming from, I can’t place it exactly. I knew I should have bought that “hunter’s hearing aid” they were advertising on the hunting channel. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Hey there’s movement. 25 yards. Get the gun up. Gun’s up. There it is again. Look through scope. What’s wrong with this scope, it’s not fogged like it usually is. Is it a buck? Yup. But it’s a spike. Real men don’t shoot spikes. 10 yards. Even I could hit that. Can’t shoot now, I already made up my mind. Deer turns. 5 yards. Shoot now? No I said. He hasn’t seen me yet. Deer can’t see orange, did I tell you that? Deer turns and is heading for my tree. I decide he is close enough so I wiggle my hand. Do you remember the movie when Bambi was on the ice? Well this spike had his 4 legs going in 4 different directions so I know it can be done. He disappeared in a hurry.
So I stayed on my stand like any real man would, for a couple of hours, even though on my watch it said about 45 minutes, and once my teeth were chattering so loud that I couldn’t even whisper coherently to myself, I decided to explore a little more in this new area. Having found no “no trespassing” signs near the stone wall, I decided to walk on back up the hill to the farm to a warm house and breakfast. On the way up the hill I started hearing the wheezing and thumping sounds again so I stopped to listen. While I was bent over (hearing being better that way), hands on knees, I was trying to sort out what my story would be since some of my relatives and their friends would have killed the deer that I just passed up. Some of my sophisticated friends would be happy that I did what was best for “the herd” and that maybe there would be a nice one waiting for someone there next year. Some of my less disciplined friends would think I was stupid because, well because they have itchy fingers. What they really don’t understand is that this was actually a case of self preservation. How could anyone shoot and miss a deer that close? If they did, they would either: a. have to lie about it the rest of their lives or b. be the butt of too many jokes for having missed a shot so close. So the way I looked at it is that I saved myself from having to be in either position and and am in that honorable, mystical place of the hunter who “passes up the little ones”, a way better spot to be, a place of prestige. So in the last 2 hours there were lots of lasting memories created and I had just enjoyed a great hunt and had “prestige” to boot. I’m glad I got out of bed. I can still do this.
So there you have it. Some real details and wisdom from a seasoned warrior. I hope you will not be overwhelmed with emails thanking you for my sharing this wisdom with everyone. You probably won’t. But 30 years or so from now, some of those younger guys might get it. I hope I can still get it then too. Because if I can still walk I will still be out there one way or the other.