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Reveling in the silence of the hunt

Fluttering broken cornstalks from a recent harvest tell me the westerly breeze is in a hurry to go somewhere other than here.

It’s a cold wind, breaking the rules of a silent hunt as it gusts through the treetops. The sunrise seems late, hidden by a thick cover of multicolored grays. Two muffled shots from afar reach my ears, but my spot on the edge of wilderness is still asleep.

It’s deer season in Michigan, a state holiday of sorts. It’s no different in my little corner of Northeast Michigan just north of beautiful Hubbard Lake. I write this from the tight confines of a portable blind just feet away from the Little Thunder Bay River. I can hear the ducks as they curl their wings for a splashdown. A pair of soaring eagles look down on me as if I don’t belong here.

It’s 7:30 a.m. and Mother Nature is waking up.

A “V” of geese struggle against the headwind, but their chatter brings out two deer, one too far, the other too small. Both nibble and move on out of sight.

It’s getting colder now. Zip up the coat a bit and pull the stocking hat over my ears. Except for the wind, the next hour is silent. I ponder my situation, thinking, “Is this how it is every morning along the river?” It’s a bit like the age-old question, “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a noise?”

But then, interrupting my “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” thinking, two more deer silently emerge from the forest’s shadows, looking for whatever grain the combine tossed aside. Heads down, now straight up as they listen for danger. Again, and then again. The larger one is out of range, but the slightly smaller deer is walking my way.

Five, then 10 minutes pass. I am sitting so still, fighting off the urge to wipe my runny nose. The larger doe wanders off, but this little buck is still meandering my way, wary, but hungry. He goes further into the scrubby cornfield and finally gives me a chance to see his broadside.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thought about what I was about to do as the crosshairs came to rest slightly below his shoulder. Not looking for either a reason or an excuse to kill, but then again, we have close to a dangerously overpopulated deer herd, and I wanted the meat — simple as that, no more, no less.

Then it’s over. I respectably go about doing the necessary fieldwork, then walk back and get the truck and gently lay him in the pickup bed.

No trophies for me. Don’t want or need them.

My trophy is the few moments I took and looked around the countryside and said a little prayer. Grateful for a beautiful morning and good enough health to sit quietly in a blind while I marveled at nature’s wonders, knowing full well the chaos of 2020 is still out there, ripping threads out of our fabric of life, but fully aware that God’s gift of nature will outlast the cruelties life tosses in our path if — and only if — we tend to the protection and preservation of that gift.

But still I wonder who will be sitting here when I am gone and what will be going through their mind as the sun shines its first light on the silence of the hunt?

Greg Awtry is the former publisher of the Scottsbluff (Neb.) Star-Herald and Nebraska’s York News-Times. He is now retired and living in Hubbard Lake. Greg can be contacted at gregawtry@awtry.com.

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