Well, I whiffed on getting another deer this season. I’ve got two in the freezer. Actually more like 1⅓, since you could have carried the second one under one arm. But we could have used another. On the last day, I sat in my stand not far from where I’d been throwing about a gallon of corn every day or so for a couple of weeks. (Yes, I did write a blog about how I don’t like baiting. Yes, I am a hypocrite. And, yes, anyone looking for a role model should close this window immediately.)
Anyway, the wind was blowing about 15 mph, with gusts to 20 or 25. Calling it a long shot would be charitable. It was more like a lost cause. I wasn’t entirely sure why I was up there. I didn’t expect to shoot a deer. An offering to the hunting gods, maybe. Or more likely pure stubbornness—to be able to say that I’d given it my best shot. Even if I wouldn’t be saying it to anyone but myself.
Seated 22 feet up in a swaying tulip poplar, I was definitely the only critter moving. I didn’t see a squirrel, songbird, crow, or vulture all afternoon. Around sunset the wind began to slack a little, as it often does. As if sunset were the wind’s signal that the workday had ended and it was time to punch out.
You know the drill in those last minutes. You have the sense that things are getting better and better right up until the moment that they aren’t because it’s too dark to see. I rode it out to that moment, sighed, lowered my bow, and climbed down. It was over.
The next morning, I looked out the window from the house and saw a bald eagle on a limb 40 feet up and 40 yards away. I’d never seen one so close, or perched anywhere other than in the topmost branches of a tree. And here was this one far below the canopy. I could see how its beak curved sharply at the end, like a fishhook. Its beak and feet were an identical shade of bright yellow. Its head looked like a snowball. And its face looked both highly alert and permanently pissed off. I’d never noticed how much more noble a bald eagle looks in profile than it does head-on.
It took me a moment to realize it was hunting the same bait pile I’d been sitting over. And, as in my case, the prospects seemed pretty dismal. The huge bird didn’t exactly blend in, and with a roughly 6-foot wingspan, it’d be none too agile in the low branches, either. But there he was, toughing it out, hunting a season that never ends. I wished him better luck than I’d had. I’m not sure why he thought my spot was the place to be. Maybe it was stubbornness.