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December 19, 2013

Snow Silence

By Dave Hurteau

Photo By: Coy Hill

Both of my freezers are full. There’s no real need for me to take another deer, which is perfect this time of the season. It means I can head for the big woods, deep into the low conifers and the high beeches, where a northeastern hunter ought to be once there’s the promise of snow. It means I needn’t give a thought to what might walk under my treestand down on the farm. It means I can take my muzzleloader for a long, quite walk in the timber, and probably not see deer, and not care one way or another.

So that’s what I did. On the morning of the season’s first snowfall, which had started as sleet in the middle the night but turned into big wet flakes by dawn, I walked a straight mile toward the first bedding ridge where hemlocks rise to a granite knob. If you’re very lucky, you can sit here and watch deer below as they filter in to bed against rock’s south-facing base.

But none did, so I hiked to the next bedding ridge, maybe another half mile out. Here, you’ve got no chance if the deer bed right on the point. But if they hang back a little and the conditions are right, you can inch up the face, peer over the point, and maybe catch them napping.

The flakes had hardened back to a steady sleet, hissing through the trees now. I inched up and peered over—only to find two leafy, brown ovals freshly pressed into the snow.

When you bust a deer or two or three, the easiest thing in the world is to drop your guard, assuming you’ve blown the whole thing. And that’s when the other deer or two or three, which were right in front you, bound away. I’ve done it so many times that I’ve finally learned not to do it anymore. So I stood still and looked hard, but saw nothing. Then I looked harder. And there they were. Four does bedded in a semicircle, well-hidden right in front of me, not 25 yards away.

Looking vaguely in my direction, they were alert but not spooked. Eventually each one relaxed. One doe licked her fawn, and the others turned their eyes upwind, away from me. So I ducked back down, crawled to a nearer tree, and slowly sat up against the trunk, where I could see them again. The either-sex tag in my pocket never crossed my mind until I spotted the two bright rubs beyond the does. Maybe a good buck would cruise by and force the issue. So I waited.

About an hour later I started getting cold and was struck, as I watched, by how relatively impervious these animals were to the weather. Even in the sleet, the hair of their coats stood up dry and fluffy as dandelion seeds. They groomed themselves. One laid its head along its back and closed her eyes. They looked so cozy under the hemlock branches.

The sleet then softened to snow again. Big flakes began dropping as if by parachute, gliding down without a whisper, and the whole tone of the woods changed. It was snow silence.* But even quieter. Something I suspect you can only hear when you’re sitting on a knoll with four bedded deer under the hemlocks in December.

Anyway, the buck never showed, so I slipped out the way I came, trying not to wreck the quiet.

* There is a poem called “December Moon” that I sometimes read to my kids at bedtime in winter. In it, the author, May Sarton, stares from a window onto a field in the moonlight after a fall of snow, and writes: “Snow silence fills my head.”

Comments (15)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Double D wrote 16 weeks 4 days ago

This post, probably written off the cuff in 20 minutes, makes me want to go deer hunting more than any other writing I've read this season, including my own work. Nice job, Dave.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 16 weeks 4 days ago

You just put my ideal day into words, although as my freezer stands currently I would have shot and wrecked the quiet.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BuckNut35 wrote 16 weeks 4 days ago

December Moon
By May Sarton

Before going to bed
After a fall of snow
I look out on the field
Shining there in the moonlight
So calm, untouched and white
Snow silence fills my head
After I leave the window.

Hours later near dawn
When I look down again
The whole landscape has changed
The perfect surface gone
Criss-crossed and written on
Where the wild creatures ranged
While the moon rose and shone.

Why did my dog not bark?
Why did I hear no sound
There on the snow-locked ground
In the tumultuous dark?

How much can come, how much can go
When the December moon is bright,
What worlds of play we’ll never know
Sleeping away the cold white night
After a fall of snow.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Douglas wrote 16 weeks 4 days ago

Good one Dave. I have deer in my yard all night now eating the rest of the garden and apples left over from fall. Neat to see in the moonlight.
We are getting more snow here in Bangor right now than I ever saw in December.
Makes me concerned for the deer herd.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from big10hunter wrote 16 weeks 4 days ago

good one, cant wait to grab the smokepole after Christmas and stalk through the snow...hopefully some more will fall

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from big10hunter wrote 16 weeks 4 days ago

good one, cant wait to grab the smokepole after Christmas and stalk through the snow...hopefully some more will fall

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Online Editors wrote 16 weeks 4 days ago

Douglas,
How much did you get? Haven't talked to the folks in a while. --dh

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Douglas wrote 16 weeks 4 days ago

This morning we have a heavy cover about 12-18" with it raining and 20 degrees
It's about a nasty out there as it gets

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

your singing my song Dave. After more than 50 seasons I never tire of the woods when it snows and the world becomes a truly wonderful place.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 16 weeks 2 days ago

Very nice piece, you do a great job of capturing the mood of late season hunting when the pressure of an empty freezer is absent. Just watching animals do their thing is a big part of hunting for me too. But it can be easier to appreciate with venison in the freezer:)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Proverbs wrote 16 weeks 1 day ago

Yes. I can feel the quietness. Perfect photo for this piece.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ironsight wrote 15 weeks 3 days ago

Dave, we don't get much snow here (last real one was in 1989), but I do have a sense of that magical quiet, in the last light of dusk in our dense maritime forest.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ironsight wrote 15 weeks 3 days ago

Dave, we don't get much snow here (last real one was in 1989), but I do have a sense of that magical quiet, in the last light of dusk in our dense maritime forest.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from okrazerback wrote 15 weeks 3 days ago

I was hunting yesterday and found two new scrapes that were freshened up before day light and what looked like tracks of a buck chasing a doe. The tracks could have just been read as though they were chasing, but I always thought scrapes were used for finding a mate. Is it normal to find fresh scraping this late in the season? I am hunting East of Central Oklahoma. Thanks for the input.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dougfir wrote 15 weeks 1 day ago

Nothing better. I was lucky enough to hunt and track on snow a lot this season, but I never hit one of those perfectly quiet, snow-muffled days. I love those!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Double D wrote 16 weeks 4 days ago

This post, probably written off the cuff in 20 minutes, makes me want to go deer hunting more than any other writing I've read this season, including my own work. Nice job, Dave.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from BuckNut35 wrote 16 weeks 4 days ago

December Moon
By May Sarton

Before going to bed
After a fall of snow
I look out on the field
Shining there in the moonlight
So calm, untouched and white
Snow silence fills my head
After I leave the window.

Hours later near dawn
When I look down again
The whole landscape has changed
The perfect surface gone
Criss-crossed and written on
Where the wild creatures ranged
While the moon rose and shone.

Why did my dog not bark?
Why did I hear no sound
There on the snow-locked ground
In the tumultuous dark?

How much can come, how much can go
When the December moon is bright,
What worlds of play we’ll never know
Sleeping away the cold white night
After a fall of snow.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

your singing my song Dave. After more than 50 seasons I never tire of the woods when it snows and the world becomes a truly wonderful place.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 16 weeks 4 days ago

You just put my ideal day into words, although as my freezer stands currently I would have shot and wrecked the quiet.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Douglas wrote 16 weeks 4 days ago

Good one Dave. I have deer in my yard all night now eating the rest of the garden and apples left over from fall. Neat to see in the moonlight.
We are getting more snow here in Bangor right now than I ever saw in December.
Makes me concerned for the deer herd.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from big10hunter wrote 16 weeks 4 days ago

good one, cant wait to grab the smokepole after Christmas and stalk through the snow...hopefully some more will fall

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from big10hunter wrote 16 weeks 4 days ago

good one, cant wait to grab the smokepole after Christmas and stalk through the snow...hopefully some more will fall

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Online Editors wrote 16 weeks 4 days ago

Douglas,
How much did you get? Haven't talked to the folks in a while. --dh

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Douglas wrote 16 weeks 4 days ago

This morning we have a heavy cover about 12-18" with it raining and 20 degrees
It's about a nasty out there as it gets

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 16 weeks 2 days ago

Very nice piece, you do a great job of capturing the mood of late season hunting when the pressure of an empty freezer is absent. Just watching animals do their thing is a big part of hunting for me too. But it can be easier to appreciate with venison in the freezer:)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Proverbs wrote 16 weeks 1 day ago

Yes. I can feel the quietness. Perfect photo for this piece.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ironsight wrote 15 weeks 3 days ago

Dave, we don't get much snow here (last real one was in 1989), but I do have a sense of that magical quiet, in the last light of dusk in our dense maritime forest.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ironsight wrote 15 weeks 3 days ago

Dave, we don't get much snow here (last real one was in 1989), but I do have a sense of that magical quiet, in the last light of dusk in our dense maritime forest.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from okrazerback wrote 15 weeks 3 days ago

I was hunting yesterday and found two new scrapes that were freshened up before day light and what looked like tracks of a buck chasing a doe. The tracks could have just been read as though they were chasing, but I always thought scrapes were used for finding a mate. Is it normal to find fresh scraping this late in the season? I am hunting East of Central Oklahoma. Thanks for the input.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dougfir wrote 15 weeks 1 day ago

Nothing better. I was lucky enough to hunt and track on snow a lot this season, but I never hit one of those perfectly quiet, snow-muffled days. I love those!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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