It was still three hours before sunrise, but I was out of bed and getting prepared for the morning hunt. Even though I had not slept a wink the night before, I was fully charged and ready to go. I had looked forward to this moment since the last day of the season the prior year. Just being out in the woods this time of year was enough to get my adrenaline going. There is nothing more beautiful than a woodlot in early to mid October. Fully camouflaged from head to toe, I was almost ready. As I sat there pulling up my knee-high boots (camouflaged of course), I couldn’t help but wonder how this day would turn out. Would it be an eventful morning or would I come home empty handed? After finishing my morning cup of coffee and loading my gear into the truck, I drove to the woods where I would be spending the next five hours.

     When I arrived, I still had one hour before sunrise, wich gave me plenty of time to get to my stand and get set up for the morning hunt. I unloaded my bow from its case, took out my flashlight and started the twenty minute walk to my stand. As I started the walk I thought to myself about how much everything looks the same in the woods when it is dark and how easy it would be to get turned around and become lost. I wondered how the pioneers did it without the flashlights or reflective markers that we use today. Trying to be as quiet as I possibly could, I ventured on. Nearing my stand, I again wondered how things would go. Had I picked the right spot? Had my previous scouting trips payed off? Would I see the deer of my dreams? Would everything come together and make this the perfect day? I had waited nine months for this day to arrive and I had butterflies in my stomach just thinking about the morning to come.

     Well here I am at the tree where my stand is placed. The stand that I have put in this tree is a twenty by eighteen inch steel platform that is attached to the tree with a log chain and adjustable straps. It is twenty feet above the ground with steel steps screwed into the tree at various intervals to allow me to climb to the top. It is cold and uncomfortable, but I think its a good trade off for what I am getting in return. While I am tying my bow to the rope that is hanging from my stand, an owl lets out a screech from above and nearly scares the living daylights out of me! After regaining my composure, I slowly begin my climb up the tree to where I would be spending the rest of my morning. On my way up, the owl decides he doesn’t like the company and noisily flies away to find a different perch. After reaching the top I fasten my safety belt and pull my bow up to where I am perched. The sun is just beginning to break the tops of the trees on the east end of the woods. My God! What a beautiful sight! This is a whole different world than it was just a short hour ago. The orange hue of the sun lightly reflecting off of the red and orange leaves couldn’t have been painted any prettier by Rembrandt himself. The morning dew was sprinkled across everything in sight and when the sun hit it, it sparkled like a field full of diamonds. This is truly one of God’s gifts to mankind. After enjoying the view I settled in for the hunt to come.

     It wouldn’t be long now, I thought. This is prime time. The next hour will be when it all happens, when all my hard work pays off. The sun is above the trees now, the darkness is gone. I can feel the warmth of the sun on my face, and I think to myself there is no other place in the whole world I would rather be on an early October morning. All the leaves are changing colors, most of the weeds are dead or dying, the birds are chirping and the squirrels are chattering. This is what makes it all worthwhile. All the work that goes into making this morning happen. All the sore muscles from carrying in the stand and getting it in place. All the complaints from my wife on how all I ever think about is hunting. To me its all worth it.

     My eyes are peeled and my ears are open just waiting to get a glimpse or hear a footstep of an approaching deer. After all, that’s what I am here for, isn’t it? After an hour or so it happens- I hear a twig snap in the leaves behind me! Could it be him? Could it be the buck of a lifetime? My heart is pounding so hard I can feel it in my eyes. My pulse is racing a mile a minute as I reach for my bow. This is it, I think to myself. Stay calm. Don’t be nervous. Don’t rush the shot. You have practiced all summer to be able to make a quick, clean kill. All these things are rushing through my mind as I slowly turn around so I can be in the perfect position for the shot to come. As I get turned all the way around and start scouring the woods in front of me for the approaching deer, it is then that I see what is making the noise in the leaves. It’s a nice eight point buck following a doe and they are headed straight for my stand. If they continue coming this way I would have the perfect broadside shot. The closer they got, the harder my heart would beat. Two more steps and the buck would be in the perfect spot for a double lung shot. Those two steps semed to take an eternity! Just then he made the last of those steps, I raised and drew my bow. I could see the razor sharp broadhead on the end of my arrow and I started envisioning it slicing through the buck’s lungs. In the little amount of time that it took me to draw my bow I had forgotten one thing- the doe! Just as I came to full draw she spotted my movement and let out a snort that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. The buck and I both knew this was an alarm call and it didn’t take him any time at all to vacate the area with the doe trailing right behind him. With my heart still pounding, I watched them run farther and farther into the woods with every passing second. Finally I settled back into my seat and tried to slow my pulse rate down, before I keeled over with a heart attack! That was a rush that no drug could ever induce. I dont think there was anything in the world that could have made me feel any more alive than that thirty-second scenario that just took place.

     The rest of the morning was uneventful, except for the appearance of a red fox and a few squirrels. The birds are always there keeping me company and singing their songs. Before long, it is 11 a.m. and time to go home. Discouraged and tired, I once again tie my bow to the rope and lower it to the ground from my perch in the tree. As I am walking to my truck, I again take notice at what a beautiful place the woods can be.

     On my short drive home, I can’t help but think that I had an unsuccessful morning. Here I am, going home without a deer in the back of my truck or any blood on my hands. If that doe hadn’t seen me that buck would have been mine. Then it hits me like a slap in the face – that isn’t the only  reason I hunt. I should be ashamed of myself. I had just experienced what many people never get a chance to in their lifetime. Seeing those beautiful animals in that gorgeous setting is one of the most amazing things there is. Just being able to be there and enjoy the sights, smells, and the sounds of the outdoors had made this morning’s hunt a success. After all, I didn’t need to kill anything to make this a memorable and enjoyable experience – it already was! If a person hunts just to kill, he or she is missing the best part of the hunt. It’s not just the kill that makes this sport enjoyable, it’s all the events that lead up to it that really make it a complete package. If I subtracted all the events that led up to and followed the actual kill, I would have some very short and boring hunting memories.