November 23, 2006

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

Well, Friday morning I got one of those dreaded phone calls… you know the type one can tell whose calling before even picking up the receiver. While I may have acted like I had just got news there was a death in the family, fortunately it wasn’t one of those calls.

One of my hunting buddies had called to break the sad news to me that the trophy deer I had been after night and day for the past week had been taken on the neighboring farm. It’s been a long time since I’ve been punched in the belly, but the news definitely hit me like a boxer’ body blow.

Normally I don’t get so attached to these big deer, as I know the odds are just as good that he will be taken on some adjacent farm. But this deer was special. I guess my fondness could be directly attributed to the closeness I felt for the big guy, literally. Not often do you get to have a huge 11-point buck working a scrape just eight yards from you.

That vivid, although fairly brief encounter I had in the bow stand a few days before the opening of rifle season had me on a mission to get more acquainted with this big fellow.

But in typical big deer fashion, this monster buck seemed to disappear once the cascade of rifle shots sounded on opening morning. I did not see the big guy again until I saw the photos of him.

The news was difficult to swallow initially. I had so wanted to get a second chance at this deer. It is sort of a sad commentary on deer hunting, when such news can send an unsuccessful hunter into the depths of near depression. It reminded me of watching my kids opening their birthday presents. One kid is all excited about the big day while the other two have to sit there and watch the lucky duck getting all of the gifts. But I’m not as lucky as my spoiled children, who each get a gift to open on their sibling’s birthday, I had no present to unwrap.

Well, not yet anyway. Besides, I’m old enough to know better. A few moments of sulking were enough for me. “That’s deer season,” I kept telling myself. It did start to sink in. I knew that there were plenty more deer out there to be had. I also took comfort from the idea of how happy that deer had made the successful hunter.

Writing this on Friday morning, I know I still have four days left in the season.

Still it is enough to make me think that I should look into some sort of counseling. How can a silly animal put a grown man on such an emotional roller coaster?

I was on such a high when that huge deer wandered in to my deer stand. Of course it was such a huge adrenaline dump when I was unable to get a shot at the deer who stood behind the oak tree and the safety of its branches before sauntering off to safety, never knowing how close he came to meeting his end.

Well, his reprieve was short lived as it turns out. The safety of the oak branches extended his life by nine days. I’m sure he enjoyed those nine days, as did I. He spent his time eating soybeans and chasing women. I spent my time, the most time I have ever dedicated to deer season, waiting him out in one of two tree stands I was certain would eventually reveal him to me again.

Therein lies the root of some of my disappointment. It’s a bit of one’s frugal nature to hate to invest so much time and effort and not see results.

Yet while that creates the sense of depression at the loss of the deer, it can also be the root to the remedy… said psychologist Chris Feeney.

When I reflect on my dilemma, all I have to do to bring myself out of the doldrums is make myself realize that none of the time I spend deer hunting is “wasted.” Just because I didn’t harvest that big buck, I am still much better off for having the opportunity to have witnessed him in such close proximity. And while some of the hours I have spent in the stand have been physically tough because of the wind and the cold, the majority of them have been fulfilling. Not only because I have seen some beautiful deer, but also too because I have been able to enjoy Mother Nature as well as some peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Heck, I don’t need a therapist. As a matter of fact, maybe I should hang a new shingle under the newspaper sign and start offering my counseling services to other deer hunters that are down in the dumps due to their lack of success. That probably wouldn’t work too well, since my office hours would be pretty irregular as I would be closed to go hunting.

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