Out here, there are a few things that we take very seriously—as seriously as religion or a fiscal promise in business. I’m speaking to the ritual that is fall hunting season. Most of us …
Out here, there are a few things that we take very seriously—as seriously as religion or a fiscal promise in business. I’m speaking to the ritual that is fall hunting season. Most of us focus on the actual time when we don our camo, brandish our bows and rifles, all with one goal in mind. But just now, in the cool late-summer, evening air, there is something even more intoxicating than the hunt: the anticipation.
You’ve heard of the Ides of March. With the Ides of March, you see a culmination of religious observances in addition to a looming deadline for settling debts, according to Roman history. In Northeastern PA and rural NY, this time of the year sounds as an equally imminent marker to hunters that the time for harvest is nearly at hand. Archery season starts very soon and the final days to prepare tree stands and practice one’s accuracy tick by with absolute certainty. The quarry shows this, too, as it is seen growing more toward maturity day by day.
Lately, I have had a visitor in my yard, come to relieve me of any apples that grow low enough on my trees. I speak, of course, of a young buck with velvet antlers who has made a steady habit of pruning my far apple tree. In the last couple of weeks, he has appeared in the evenings too far for my camera to get a clear photo of him. His antlers appear to grow in between sightings as much as an inch or two at a time, which is saying something for as often as he comes. Recently I got a good enough glimpse to determine that he will likely end his growth as a nine-pointer due to a crab claw on the right beam and a matching set of brow tines. He taunts his development with his regular visits and has become complacent with distancing himself appropriately from humans after many uneventful pilgrimages through our groomed lawn. Despite his confidence in crossing through the mouth of the lion’s den, so to speak, it is now in the Ides of August that his debt will soon come due. It would appear that after eating all of my apples that he would owe me something after all.
He isn’t the only buck to make rounds through the yard and will likely not be my only target come hunting season. However, when it comes to whitetails, you go with what you know. The advantages of archery are that the deer are not yet disturbed by a ruckus in the woods. Fewer hunters opt to archery hunt than will to rifle hunt. With that said, even those who are in the woods tend to make less of a commotion since their weapons are silent and shorter ranged. An animal that may be within rifle range, or as far as you can see with a scope, is not necessarily within bow range, which typically maxes out at around 30 to 40 yards. Overall, this means fewer shots taken and less likelihood of the habitual patterns deer have held to over the last several months being interrupted.
So much like the Romans, we woodsmen, we outdoorsmen, we stewards of animal management, take note of the change in the season. While the time may not be upon us, our focus is indeed narrowed. The preparation begins now as the anticipation builds. As for the matter of my local buck and his apple debt, I will seek to collect his debt around the same time my apples will be ready to harvest. The way out here, one season leads to another, marked by the changing bounty around us; and if one bounty should decide to consume another, then with it they take their place in the food chain.