The second group, which came a week later, was four small guys chowing down on a carpet of swamp chestnut oak acorns. When full, they plopped themselves down right where they’d fed. I watched two lick each others’ faces and necks for nearly half an hour. Then, satisfied that they looked their best, they clicked antlers a couple of times in a friendly sort of way.

My heart leaped. It was only late September, but the wheels had started moving. It wouldn’t be long before they’d be fighting for real. I resolved to bring antlers and do some light rattling next time. But since then I’ve been tethered to my desk like a resentful Rottweiler. The strain is starting to show. Yesterday I called a manufacturer to chase down details about a new boot they’re marketing. I said I was a hardcore deer hunter.

“I hear that all the time,” the marketing guy said, as if somehow annoyed by the term. “What exactly does ‘hardcore’ mean?”

“I’ll tell you what it means,” I said. “It means that deer are the last thing I think about before I go to sleep at night and the first thing I think about when I open my eyes in the morning. That help any?”

“Oh,” he said. “I see.”

Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. But I’ll tell you this: The longer I sit here at my computer, the less I care about my career prospects.