Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Deerslayer-3

My father's favorite deer stand was squarely in the middle of a massive boy scout reservation, probably ten square miles in dimension, several miles from our lake. Typically, we would have to sneak onto this land to hunt, as it had locked gates. Because the boy scouts had all gone home by November, however, the reservation was usually deserted--deserted, that is, with the exception of a single, hapless caretaker of the property, who would kick us off the land whenever we were found hunting there.

For reasons I cannot recall, it happened that my father had a key to the gates of this choice hunting spot. In my next post, I will describe the comic effect this key had on my father one day. For now, however, it is sufficient to note that most of the other locals knew we hunted the reservation, and they were jealous that we had access to this patch of wilderness. The fact that we had to sneak onto the property and others couldn't get in added to the special quality of my father's favorite deer stand.

This stand was an old tree stump plopped at the bottleneck between two lakes on the reservation, a swath of land no more than 200 yards wide. On that stump, my father could watch for deer coming through, unwittingly hemmed in by the lakes, and with no choice but to walk or run within rifle range. Whenever we hunted this area, my father would drop me off at one end of the lake, and I would walk purposely and noisily toward the bottleneck, thus flushing any deer near the lake in his direction. Because the leaves crackled as the deer were flushed, he would have plenty of notice of deer coming his way, and, because my father was a former Marine and an excellent shot, coming within range of the stand usually meant a quick death.

He was always exhilarated, almost playful, after a kill, not in a silly, redneck way, but because deer hunting was, I think, one of my father's few areas of satisfaction in life. When he was deer hunting, his storms were miles and miles away.

There is no doubt in my mind that my father was happiest on this earth when he was sitting on that particular tree stump, eyeballing the field of fire created by that particular bottleneck, waiting for the kill, all while hunting, with his son, in the woods of an obscure boy scout reservation, near a rural lake, in the middle of nowhere.