All season long, every day looked promising. He was so elusive, but you were sure the Buck would finally walk into your sights.
But it didn't happen.
You could feel that big buck just writhe with glee - if that is possible for a deer - when he dropped another can of 'deer season whoop-ass' on you again.
Why, you even got a bit of a chuckle. "Dang! That deer is schooling me hard. Givin' me a complex you are Big Boy. A regular complex! Next year. That's MY year. You wait and see who's laughing then. Yeah!"
Alas this season ended on the same note as the previous 3. Despite your confidence filled pronouncement, you got your butt kicked again:
Hunter 0 ... Buck 7.
Seven times you'd come to the hunting ground. Seven times, in hand, a perfectly engineered planned. Seven times YOU went home seeing nothing more than beautiful sunrises, memorable sunsets, dozens of birds and small animals. You observed as nature used the shade creatures, formed as the clouds, dancing across the sky to trace the passage of time for all in attendance; you included.
Each day that passed, you left the woods later and later. Sure the hot coffee, soup and a very welcome, 3 fingers of Scotch, were always a luring siren. But a stronger pull; even stronger than the urge to hang the Buck on the cross-beam, was keeping you in the woods.
In the early days when you first started hunting you didn't understand. It just didn't figure! Dingle-crackers!... it was cold, wet, tiring, cramped, windy ... it was down-right miserable at times. But so many times, you didn't even notice it. You even began enjoying it.
That's it. You stayed longer because you just plain liked being in the woods.
After a time, you began to realize that finally, you had begun to act natural.
Everyone who is veteran hunter of a few years, knows that no one needs to head out to their stand at 4am in the morning. Only a masochist or a neophyte would do this. Right?
Well, yes. For the first few years.
Then you would just keep on doing it, because you realize there's no better place to get your morning shut-eye, wake-up to warm coffee and a roll, see the sun rise, hear the birds wake-up ritual and watch the entire woods world come to life.
Naturally you did your fair share of eyelid surveys. Most likely this was when the Buck got His chance to see you as well. Yeah. if you hadn't been having such a good time you might just have taken that 'big bad boy' home this year. Eh?
But you never laid so much as an eye-twitch on the Buck. Yeah. That's true. That's OK. There's next year.
To keep in pattern with the previous years, you religiously went back to the scene of your miserable failure to revel in it's success.
Because you knew he still roamed the hills, woods, creeks and swampy bottoms. He was still there; whether you were or not.
The wind would drop and the frost clinging to the trees, glistening like diamond dust with the first rays of the sun would shimmer in place; or the high-noon shadows pouring through the leafless canopy would suddenly go mime; or the misty glow of the forming evening fog would provide a sanctuary backdrop for the moment you'd see him.
Ah, but not before He had slipped silently out of his bed. Never quite revealing his 'serta-in-the-grove', stealing his way to a splendid spot, befitting of his regal offering: your annual chance to see Him. Then He would offer his annual greeting snort. On cue, as choreographed as a Shakespearean actor, you look up!
There HE is.
Wow! He's grown so much. His rack has become huge; intoxicating. His massive shoulders and neck still showing the muscle and blood engorgement of the rutting and mating ritual and exercise.
What a sight He is.
What an opportunity. Yeah, you think, "OH! If only it as still 'in season'! If only I had my bow! If only ...", but this fades and gives way, to just .. "Wow. He is beautiful. I know he'll spook and be gone for another year. Wouldn't I love to capture this image to look at any time of year?" And that's when you raise the camera and take the 3 photos you get before He is out-of-sight.
Make no mistake about it ... this IS His domain.
You know it.
He knows it.
So do all the other animals in the woods.
"Yes.", you say to yourself. The the ephemeral wisp of the moment takes on a Brigadoonesque atmosphere. Time just seemed to stand-still while He stood there.
Surrounded by the royal walls of his riparian realm. Each woodland surface draped in the muted glow of the diamond dust of late fall frost. Winter is soon to appear. His rack will once again fall, feed the mice of the woods and possibly tantalize a woodsman seeking the fallen coronets.
The ice fog hangs thick across the winter wheat field in the distance. "My, Oh, My!" You repeat to yourself as you remember how it provided the ermine backdrop so fitting this royal creature.
The fog begins sending drizzles. skittering down through the branches now as you make you way back to the truck.
One last time you turn and look at the opening where He, The Buck, stood, showing Himself to you. A shiver runs through your system. No, it's not the cold. It's the anticipation.
You're already planning the next seaon.