When I turned the significant corner of fifty years, a sense of urgency began to work at me. I’d hunted as steadily as I could, for a man with a job, a family, and some sense of responsibility to both, for more than a quarter of a century. It was unlikely that I could hunt another twenty‐five years. I’d shot quite a few bucks, including some good ones. But not a great one.
And I couldn’t shake that image of the Picket Fence, sauntering across the frozen plain. Another year slipped away, then another. The birth of my son, Luke, was a joyous occasion, but afterward it was even tougher to focus on hunting. I had to face the facts; I was getting older, the law of diminishing returns was kicking in. It was time to man up.
Over the years, my aims and ideas about deer hunting also had changed. I never fancied myself a “trophy hunter,” but I ingested all of the books and magazine articles outlining the strategies for ambushing a big deer, learned all there is to know about hunting transition zones between feeding and bedding areas.
I spent enough time in the woods to be able to tell whether a track in three inches of snow was relatively new or old. Over time, I accumulated a bewildering assortment of calls meant to mimic deer vocalizations, from the lost fawn bleat to the aggressive buck’s grunt‐wheeze. I bought rattling antlers that promised to lure dominant bucks to the sound of combat between two younger peers, and camo everything.
I had everything but the buck.
But in this year, the Year of Our Lord 2008, it was going to be different. I was going to take up every invitation that came my way, from hunting acquaintances and friends near and far, and make as much time as I could—without having to consult a divorce lawyer—to get myself a wallhanger.
Now, on the brink of another opening day of another deer season, one that I wanted to be different from the ones that had come before, I was getting on my game face.
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