On Why I Love Hunting the Big Woods

I'll tell you why I love hunting New York's Adirondacks: The place, although decidedly not full of deer, is full of secrets--stuff that happens, in anonymous black swamps or on wide-open beech ridges--that nobody knows a thing about.

I, however, know where a basket-rack 8-pointer beds. On the rim of a mountaintop flat, where tropical storm Irene silently leveled a column of black oaks, he came jogging out of the shadows, out of the north-slope hemlocks on a line and onto the bright flat of leafless oaks; he banked right, J-hooked, peed and curled up under a blowdown's crown.

He's probably there now.

I know this because I saw him. I cut his tracks recently after a light fall of snow. Nothing huge--but the toes were rounded, the gait wide, and there were drag marks between the prints. I followed them through the hemlocks, on a line and into the oaks. Where they banked right, I glassed into the blowdowns maybe 50 yards ahead, and I watched him stand up. For a second, probably less, we stared at each other before I went for my gun.

I didn't get him. Didn't even get a shot off before he bailed over the rim.

That's fine. I know his secret.