Outdoor Articles

Opening Day

by Pursue The Outdoors on October 14th, 2006 in Big Game Hunting

The day approaches with a strange mixture of anticipation and dread. Like all hunters, I want the season to begin, but that first day can be crazy. Sometimes in Western Washington opening day of deer season is not just about getting to your favorite hunting spot, it’s about hunting a place to park! However, I’m determined.

Saturday, October 14. It’s here. Rising early, I collect my gear, coffee, and wits two hours before daylight. My destination is just thirty minutes away on the beautiful Skykomish River. I suit up like a camouflage astronaut and spray myself down with an enzyme scent killer that I believe will hide my humanness so long as I don’t breathe, sweat, or succumb to nature’s other call.

The fog is thick. I am as damp as duck’s feet from walking the hundred feet from my porch to the truck. The drive is uneventful but slow going. The intermittent wipers are a must to cut the heavy veil of fog. Twenty miles of my trek is residential. It doesn’t feel like I’m getting ready to experience nature’s best. But right after the DQ and thrift store, I see a bridge. This Skykomish River bridge is the unofficial boundary between a Microsoft/Boeing generated populous, and the nearest, wonderful, shrinking, hunter’s Eden. Does anyone else ever wonder if they were born in the wrong century?

Eight miles from subdivisions I pull off the road. No streetlights in sight. No sounds except the falling of leaves. It is Fall. Things are falling. The bank down to the river is steep, I hope I don’t fall. No need to go to the gym after dragging a prize back up this hill. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.


The most important thing is something I do not see, other vehicles. I am the first to arrive! I claim this section of earth as my own for the morning. I get my L.E.D light and trusty .35 caliber sidekick and I’m ready to descend through damp leaves, brush, and cobwebs to a little highway for furry woodland creatures I discovered scouting a week ago with a buddy from Kenya.

I stumbled on what I call ‘Deer Island’ by accident a year ago pursuing my other passion, fishing. I was targeting blue-backs. Salmon were jumping. Flying raptors lined the bank of the river. It was surreal. I love raptors. Eagles and hawks are the greatest and most blessed hunters. Can you imagine being able to just forget about the traffic, gas prices, tree stands, expensive hunting gear, licenses, hunting regulations that require legal counsel to decipher, and just launching out wherever you want to hunt using built-in, God-given weaponry to find and fall your prey? I love raptors and I envy them.

The fish were jumping and the raptors were flying. It was quite a while before I even looked down. But when I did there were tracks in the sand; not just a few, not all the same size. I thought, ‘interesting.’ My commitment came quickly to return God willing, minus a pole, plus a rifle.

So here I am a year later. I take my place on the ground overlooking the smaller tributary of the island and the game trail. I’m hidden by just enough underbrush to seclude, yet afford a somewhat unobstructed shot. I sit still in the darkness, motionless in the dampness. My legs fall asleep: pins and needles. My back starts to ache. It’s cold. It’s wonderful. Images of trees, bushes, rocks, and ‘I wonder if that was a deer’ begin to emerge from the foggy darkness. It won’t be long now. Prophetically I think, “He will appear out of the dark mist. I’ll have to concentrate on breathing normally. I’ll hear the thumping of my own heart in my ears.”

ATV’s?! I hear ATV’s. I hear yahoos talking about hunting. I ponder the ramifications of shooting their wheels out. Maybe I better not. This is my piece of earth! It’s my island for the morning. I guess they didn’t get the email. “God, if I have to share my island, let them run the deer right over top of me.”

Their noise pollution fades, eventually. I hear nothing but falling leaves again. It’s daylight but still foggy. Something moves: trots. It’s canine: coyote. He’s coming straight at me. Should I shoot? No. It might spook the deer. He’s spooking the deer. I think I’ll shoot. He’s fifty yards away and his head is down. He’s on the hunt. So am I. I raise my gun. He turns into the brush. He’s gone. Several minutes pass. A coyote head rises from a bush eighty yards away. Gun up. Fire! Head ducks. I don’t think I hit him. I better go check. No hair, no blood, and no coyote.

The bank overlooking the tributary is grassy. The game trail is only fifteen feet down. I lay down like a lion in the grass. I can see about fifty yards of streambed. My caffeine is wearing off. It’s pretty comfortable here. I think I’ll rest my eyes. A few minutes pass. I’m jump-started by a hawk’s cry. No deer in sight. I think I’ll just talk to the Nature-maker. After a few minutes of silent communication, my eyes open with my internal ‘amen’ to meet with a little doe’s gaze. She’s on the trail only fifteen feet away, head cocked sideways, big ears erect, wondering what this big alien lump is on the hill in front of her. Her sister appears beside her: twin yearlings: They are tentative but curious. I see more movement to my right. It’s mom. She stops and with deer telepathy calls her daughters to herself. They move away slowly: take a few steps, stop and look back at the lump in the grass: repeat. This process continues until the three become beautiful, ghostly apparitions swallowed by the fog.

It’s time to go home. Civilization still exists (and a) family waits to do family things. That’s O.K. Family is important. My wife will be happy that I get home close to the time I said I’d be back. But I’ll be back. After all, my shrinking paradise is not far from my subdivision.

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