Hi, I'm Bill, and I'll Be Your Hunter This Season

On Wednesday, the deer that will make or break my year were formally introduced. Both he and the doe he was dogging appeared under my stand without so much as a crunched leaf, the kind of physical impossibility at which whitetails excel. They came, of course, from behind me and downwind. So either I was well and truly scent-proofed or they were just too focused on each other to care.

He was probably a big eight. I knew he was just outside the ears and heavy, but it was over too fast to count points. I remember the instant of contact and my brain registering "Shooter." I remember his body, which either was or seemed huge. Above all else, I remember the way he moved. Like a linebacker. Big yet compressed. A swollen neck and an abundance of muscle not meant for show. Every ounce of his form focused and available to his will. Facts of which he was fully aware. He was, in short, the Man.

I tried to swing on him and found, as in a bad dream, that I couldn't. It was my harness tether. I'd had to guess which side of the tree when turning to set up, and I'd guessed wrong. Hog-tied by my own hand, I froze and hoped for a miracle. That he'd either change direction and come back to my operative side or look elsewhere long enough to let me duck the tether.

It was not to be.

He stopped, looked straight up at me, and disapproved of what he saw. He bounded just 30 yards off to reassess, screened by brush. Then he took off after the doe again. I stood there, flooded, knowing I'd blown as close an encounter as you can have from 18 feet up.

I'm hoping it was Round One and not End of Story. The happy couple cavorted by two hours later, still flirting and well out of range.

At least I know who I'm hunting now.