It is said that deer are the smartest animals in the Maine woods. They proved that last weekend when the second Annual Fitz-Harrington Deer Hunt came to a close without a shot fired or a buck spotted. As with the 2013 Fitz-Harrington Deer Hunt, the highlights of the trip included the food, wine and accommodations.
This year we also enjoyed a round of golf at the exclusive Northeast Harbor Golf Club on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It was particularly exclusive because the “Summer Jerks” had all decamped. The weather forecast was gloomy – yet a break in the clouds allowed our round to go off without crowds, precipitation or a chill.
Of course, the real thrill of deer hunting is the anticipation. Unlike Christmas, where the anticipation of gifts, family frenzy and excessive consumption is guaranteed to arrive, the anticipation of a deer hunt is rarely consummated with the trophy buck. The anticipation of Christmas leads to a letdown as one Christmas gets compared with another. The anticipation of the deer hunt lives on.
Motionless and mute
Sitting in a blind for hours on end, as motionless as possible and as mute and silent as human nature will allow, may not sound like a promising invitation to many readers, but it works for me. [Ed. note: see account of 2013 Hunting Trip.] Even the falling temperatures, the rising winds and the intermittent precipitation add to the pleasure and the excitement of waiting for the complicated event known as “taking the shot.”
Taking the shot
Will the buck of our dreams emerge from the woods from the north or the south? Will the shot be too long for my skill level? Will the beast move too fast? Will my hands be too cold? Will I pull the trigger and jerk the gun in my excitement? Will the shifting wind give us away as our scent travels downwind? Is that flicker of brown a deer’s ear or just a fluttering leaf?
The anticipation creates unparalleled excitement. “Will this damn buck ever show up? Ah, good, it is nearly ‘shooting time’ and we had better get out of these woods while there still enough light to see.” We zip up the blind and quietly walk out of the woods to our roadside truck, hoping that a buck will make a last minute appearance before “shooting time” silences all guns until the next morning.
The most dramatic moments of a hunting trip are always the sightings of game, although in the case of our past weekend the drama was limited to false sightings.
The next most dramatic moments are likely to surround gun safety. Gun safety is paramount and we strictly adhere to safe practices, above and beyond regulatory requirements. So when a round of ammunition went missing Saturday night, we had a little excitement. I am not going to name any names, but one member of our group, having unloaded his gun, was emptying the clip into the ammo box, when one round slipped between the cabin and the bed of his pickup truck. It rattled around briefly but we never, clearly, heard it hit the ground.
The code of the woods includes the unwritten rule that the responsible hunter does not leave high-powered ammo lying around. My personal code is to avoid driving in trucks with bullets warming up under my seat. So there was great relief when, after a couple of man-hours under the chassis with headlamps and flashlights, my hunting partner extracted the errant cartridge from where it had lodged next to the gas tank. The doctor and patient survived. The operation was a complete success.
Sometimes the pleasure of deer hunting is simply spending time with an old friend.
Photo: selfie(s) snapped by David in the blind.