My last-minute run to the woods to fill my tag with a big buck was not thought out particularly well. I dressed warm, threw my pack, blaze-orange hoodie, hunting vest and shotgun into the idling truck. The tank read half. The windshield was frost-free. In spite of a couple good snow storms in the last week, the roads were generally clear and the three-speed straight-six did its best against a ridiculous W/NW gale.
Now, of trucks and deer hunting, there are a couple well-known rules that should be noted once the snow flies:
1. Make sure you’ve got weight in the bed of your truck. As long as I can remember my dad having a truck this has been a seasonal ritual. Putting sandbags in the back. It’s the one thing that separates you from all the yahoos whose trucks are buried in drifts, ditches or the rear-end of some unsuspecting Prius. Unless that one thing is beer, in which case sandbags won’t make them a dang bit of difference.
2. When a front is moving in and the wind and snow go horizontal, it’s best to grab a beer and watch the game. For all intents and purposes, that’s what the deer are doing.
Of course when it comes to rules, well-known doesn’t mean always-followed. Take my present situation for example.
My lack of forethought pertaining to rule #1 struck me as I pulled a u-turn to park the truck on the side of the road where we walk into our woods from: I’ve got zero weight in the bed of the truck. I pulled onto the shoulder, getting as close as possible to its edge without sliding over, in order to allow enough room for the fly-wing of the County’s plow truck to leave my mirror attached.
If I get stuck, I told myself, standing in the squall, I’ll cross that bridge when I’m done hunting– effectively dismissing rule #2 as well. This is how the male hunting-mind works. It’s a complex and inexplicable animal.
I suited up, locked the truck and started the 1/4-mile hike across a wide-open field to the woods.
Once in the woods, I spotted a half-dozen new rubs, but no fresh tracks. I was confident that this would be my afternoon. I settled into the stand, hung my gun on its hook and lit my pipe. The wind blew snow in whirls and clouds through the hardwoods around me. I was warm enough from the hike in to leave my gloves in my pocket for a while. Life was good.
Twenty minutes passed. No longer warm from the hike in, I put my pipe away and fished my gloves from my pocket. To my right, a big doe walked out from behind a thicket of trees, picking her way toward me. A doe was not on the docket for today’s hunt, but I grabbed my gun from its hook in case my buck was sniffing around.
She stood facing my direction at 40 yards. If I moved, she’d bust me and the jig would be up. I sat like a rock. Every direction she looked or turned her ears toward, I followed with my eyes. Five minutes later, she lied down right where she was standing. No buck. Just a bed comfortable enough to ride out the storm, complete with a view of a blaze orange testament to what happens when you don’t follow the rules. Shit.
So there I sat. Wind and snow. Dropping temps. More wind and snow. Nose running like a track-star. After two hours, she continued to lie there chewing her cud, body almost snowed-over. Snowed-over as well, and right about the time I started talking to the squirrels in neighboring trees, I decided I needed to stand up. Success. Daylight gave out twenty minutes later and she busted me climbing down out of the tree. I could sort of feel my fingers and toes again as I traipsed out of the woods to the field, a fading gray and drifting tundra.
In the end, the truck didn’t get stuck. That’s not to say I didn’t come uncomfortably close, mind you. I pulled slowly from the shoulder to the road. Fishtails dictated that 35 mph was all the truck would allow. Slow and steady. Which was fine by me. I had nothing to prove that I suppose hadn’t already. Besides, the game wasn’t starting for another hour and twenty minutes…and the beer wasn’t going anywhere either.