CORTISOL IS A STRESS HORMONE, produced by the adrenal glands, one of which sits on top of each kidney. It’s a pretty targeted substance. In a fight-or-flight situation, cortisol slows down bodily functions that would be harmful or nonessential. Among the so-called “stress hormones”—others include glucocorticoids, catecholamines, and prolactin—cortisol is perhaps the most critical in aiding us to adapt to quickly changing environments.

At the moment, stress hormones are oozing out of my ears. Cortisol, prolactin, the works. Through the windshield I watch two young ladies lollygag across the parking lot, oblivious to my truck slow-rolling behind them and its occupant’s rising blood pressure. They are gumming up my plans in a big way.

Do they not know? Do they not understand? Come on come on come move it! I’m in a mad sweat to get to the deer woods.

Tick, Tock on the Deer Season

I’ve planned this afternoon off for days. I ticked off all the items from my to-do list to free up a whole afternoon, but there’s always something, right? Today’s something turns out to be the fact that my old iPhone has to be shipped out of UPS in the next 6 hours or I’ll get hit with an upcharge from the trade-in. My deer hunting gear was already in the truck, so it should have been a simple matter of packing up the old phone and dropping it off at the UPS center, which wasn’t really on my way to the hunt camp but no choice there.

So. Where’s my packing tape? I tore through every drawer in my office, and then rifled through the kitchen. I always have packing tape. Who used my ##^%*&! packing tape? Now I have two stops to make, and the clock is ticking. I burned rubber on wet leaves in the driveway.

But the shopping-center parking lot was a mess with early Christmas shoppers. I glared at the wreaths on storefront doors. Christmas Smishmas. I have deer to kill. I blasted through the drug-store aisles in full camo, my head on a swivel for mailing supplies. Other customers steered clear. I may have sent an assistant manager shuttling to the back office to make a quick phone call. I found the packing tape, then picked up a bottle of green tea with ginseng. I’ve heard it has meditative properties. I needed something to calm myself down. Next stop: The UPS store.

In my imagination, 8- and 10- and 12-point bucks frolicked undisturbed in the big woods in front of my tree stand. Mature does with Boone and Crockett backstraps fed under the oaks like they didn’t have a care in the world. It was all happening right now. RIGHT NOW! While I’m shilling out for packing tape 30 miles away.

The Life of a Deer Nut

Why is it like this so often? Why is it this ridiculously freaking hard to simply go sit in a tree? It’s crazy to have to scramble like this to get to the deer woods. This is my hobby. This is my fun thing. It’s supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable. And I’ve known about this afternoon for days. Blocked it off on the calendar. Cleared it with two generations of family members. The runway to the deer woods should be wide open.

But hunting life and real life don’t always play nice with one another. Things come up, and we wind up trying to cram one more quick errand into a day in which we’re already late to the farm.

The two happy shoppers finally make it out of that portion of the parking lot in which vehicles should freely move, and I swerve around them, huffing and puffing. It’s all good, I tell myself. Calm down. Plenty of time left in the day. Next stop: The UPS drop-off.

But this time of year, there’s never enough time. The clock is ticking for me to put a deer on the ground, and things aren’t getting any easier. The whitetail rut is over, the deer are in lockdown, and while I know all about the so-called “second rut” in December, I also know that the deeper I get into December the uglier my calendar gets.

Which is why I need to get there right now.

I slam on the brakes. Some dude in a pickup truck is waiting for another car to back out of a parking spot. I’m stopped again. I drum my fingers on the steering wheel. I rock back and forth in my seat. Come-on-come-on-come-on-come-on. Every minute that slips away is costing me venison. Come on, man!

I watch the clock. Pickup Truck Man sits there for three solid minutes which, when you’re watching the pot, seems like 30.

The cortisol is gushing now. I wouldn’t doubt if it were running down the side of my face like Rudy Guliani’s hair dye. Screw it. Apple can hit me with whatever surcharge it wants. I wheel around the pickup, hop a shopping center curb with a back tire, and head west.

This time of year, time itself seems to be slipping away. I hardly have time to hunt, much less time to waste. I clear the city limits and point the hood toward my destiny with a deer. Whatever that is, at least now I’m on my way.