The Witching Hour

I’ve done a fair amount of bitching and whining about the amount of sitting we do in stands, but the fact is that there are places where it’s the only effective way to hunt.

There is, however, the problem of boredom. If you’re in a tree stand in South Carolina, nature throbs and pulses all day like a boil at your collar line. All manner of wildlife wanders or flies by, and there is always something to look at. However, in the colder climates, seeing a single bird can be the highlight of the day, and you are thrown back on your inner resources. I heard a SEAL sniper say that he fought ennui by counting from one to 1,000, and back again, over and over. More power to him. (By the way, it will soon be revealed that I was the one who shot Osama Bin Laden, not the other three guys—or is it six—who claim to have done it. My motives were pure. I wanted the book and movie deal.) I would rather think about Ms. Charlize Theron, who I hope one day will teach me Afrikaans.

But there is one part of any day on stand when your mind will not wander, when you will not doze; when you will be fully focused, and that is the last 15 minutes of light when the remaining sliver of sun has slid below the horizon, the chill comes up like a wave, and the heads of antlered ungulates (sometimes) peek slyly from the trees, looking to see if the coast is clear. This is the witching hour, the magic time of both hope and despair, when you know that if anything is going to happen or not it’s going to be in a matter of minutes.

It’s time to flex your frozen trigger finger and, as Jeff Cooper said, watch furiously. I’ve been privileged to sit through witching hours for half a century, most uneventful, a few otherwise, and they still make my adrenalin pump.