Archive for December, 2016

A Different Kind of Trip to the Woods

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

A few days ago, I headed to the woods with Alex Kershaw, an internationally known visual artist from Australia. I hadn’t seen him in a few years. The last time he was in town, we worked from sunup to sundown for a few days, allowing him to gather enough footage for his project that will be released in international art galleries when it is completed.

In my travels, I’ve been around a fair number of very intelligent people. Each person has had unique qualities that sets him or her apart from the others. Alex stands out above all of the people I have met in the past.

I’ve never been around anyone who is so open-minded and objective. He listens, observes and doesn’t cast opinions based on his own thoughts. He takes things at face value. These qualities are so incredibly hard to find in a person that it seems like people like this don’t really exist. Instead, they are fictional characters in fairy tales that are shared with kids while they’re growing up.

As Alex followed me through the snow and down the hill to the place where I intended to sit with him until it got dark, I made sure to show him how to figure out if a deer was a buck or doe by showing him the urine-stained snow. I explained how does urinate behind their tracks and bucks usually urinate in their tracks or slightly ahead of them. This fascinated him ….. and me.

With a few minutes of daylight left, I spotted a doe making its way down the hill toward us. I gently reached behind me and grabbed Alex’s ankle and whispered, “There’s a deer up there.”

The deer fed along the ridge behind us. I could hear another deer, but couldn’t tell where it was standing. I heard a few sticks crack when it was moving, but I couldn’t pinpoint the noise. I whispered to Alex that I knew there was another deer in the vicinity.

Suddenly, the doe snapped her head up and locked onto us. I knew she was going to bolt, so I let Alex know that the fun was about to end. Seconds later, she blew and bolted, and two other deer ran out of the small depression behind her.They quickly disappeared into the brush above us.

We packed our gear and headed up the mountain. He asked a few questions along the way, but we didn’t waste any time getting out of the woods since it was now dark.

He couldn’t figure out how I knew there were other deer in the area when we couldn’t see them. He also didn’t know how I knew that the deer was going to run away.

I never really thought about it, but I realized that I take these things for granted. I’ve spent so much time in the woods that when I’m in a deer’s world, I know how to speak the silent language that is only found among the animals of the forest. I have become so in touch with nature that I am one of the beings that calls the forest home.

While walking out, I realized that I see things that very few people ever experience. I see the woods come alive almost every morning. I watch squirrels wake up in the morning, stretch their legs, and start scurrying from tree to tree to gather food. I watch woodpeckers  fly to their favorite trees to hammer them like a jackhammer tearing cement apart. I look into the gray sky as I hear geese and see them flying south.  I watch their V formation and wonder how they can hold it so steady. I watch owls quietly glide through the air and land on nearby limbs. Their heads turn on a swivel while they ready themselves to pounce on an unsuspecting mouse, which I might have seen crawl out of a stump a few minutes earlier.

Before I head out of the woods, I watch animals fill their bellies on the way to their homes. Deer browse along and mind their own business, and squirrels sometimes compete with them for a few morsels of food. The birds stop making noise, the turkeys fly into their roosting spots, and coyotes begin to howl as they get ready to search for food.

I’m unbelievably thankful that I was introduced to hunting when I was a child. It felt good tonight to be able to give back in a small way. Alex is an incredible man. I’m not sure if he will ever hunt. I suspect that he probably won’t try it, but he has at least experienced a few of the things with me that he never would have otherwise.

Every day in the woods is a gift to me. I enjoy it for what it is. I get to witness the cycle of life, the hunters and the hunted, and the education that is passed on in the silence of the forest. Hunters have a unique bond with nature. When Alex’s art project is released in one of the top art galleries, I’ll be interested to hear what the viewers see when they stand back and take it in. I will be able to learn from a different brand of people, just as a different brand of person learned from me………….a contribution to the cycle of life.t