Saturday, Oct. 24, 220

Today’s date has been a good date for me over the years. I’ve killed a lot of nice deer during the first week of gun season, including a couple dandies. I always look forward to opening day but not the way I used to look forward to opening day in Southern Zone. The opening days are two drastically different things. Each one of them has its pluses and minuses. Opening day of Northern Zone just doesn’t produce the adrenaline like the opener in Southern Zone. Here’s a good one I killed on opening day back in the late ’90s. It dressed 185 pounds.

I hemmed and hawed when I woke up about where I wanted to go. It was 64 degrees when I got up and a light, misty rain was falling from the sky. I knew I was going to get drenched on my way into the woods. It’s never good to start the day soaking wet.

Finally, as I drove down the road, I decided to go to an area that has treated me well over the years. I’m not sure what made me go there, but I followed my instincts and let the tires of the truck roll across the dirt road until I found myself turning into a parking spot. There was absolutely no pre-planning for this hunt.

As I made my way through the woods after getting out of the truck, I spotted a light in the distance. Another hunter was headed onto the same ridge, but he had parked down the road from me. I knew I would quickly be out of his sight, so I continued through the woods in the darkness.

I was settled into the spot I wanted to sit well before daylight, and I felt good about it. The rain came down in sheets off and on. Fortunately, I had stuck my tree umbrella in my backpack before I left and screwed it into the tree above my head. The tree umbrella is one of the best investments I’ve made over the years. It’s hard to believe that a simple $20 item can be so handy and keep you dry.

About 9:45, I spotted something running toward me. It wasn’t hauling ass. Instead, it was just trotting, but it was definitely getting away from something.

As it trotted past the tree I was leaning against, I put the crosshairs on the shoulder and debate pulling the trigger. It was a really good buck, but I wasn’t sure it was one I wanted to attach my tag to on the first day of the season. The hesitation gave it enough time to get past me. I could’ve shot him one more time, and I know I would have killed him either time, but I eased my finger off the trigger and let him go.

After he was gone, I regretted the decision, especially with everything that is going on this year. My mental state is shot, and I’m finding it incredibly hard to concentrate and find time to hunt. I feel like I’ve been decimated to a weekend warrior, and I don’t like the feeling. I guess I’ll make my way form one day to the next and take them as they come. I can’t do anything more or less than that this year.

I enjoyed seeing the deer, and it made me feel good. About an hour later, I spotted a huge doe. I expected it to have antlers, but it was as bald as an egg. I still can’t believe the deer wasn’t a buck. The buck I saw was stocky and mature, but this doe was probably about the same size. I’d be surprised if she didn’t go 150 pounds. I’ve seen some nice does in the big woods, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a doe that big.

The rest of the day was uneventful. The wind picked up and the temperature dropped. It was 39 degrees when I came out of the woods. The wind put a damper on my hopes for the afternoon.

Walking out of the woods, I realized how lucky I had been for the day. Many people hunt for the entire season and never have an opportunity at a buck — and I had one on the first day of the season. Many people say I’m lucky, but I believe people make their own luck. I work really hard at it, and this summer I worked harder than I have in many years. I put on a lot of miles, and I traversed some rugged country in the process. Yes, I might be lucky, but the luck doesn’t find me: I find it.

I’ve always liked rainy and windy days. It gives me a chance to walk around and explore things. I found this scrape with a licking branch earlier this fall, so I went back to see if anything had opened it up. I’m not sure if the buck that made it last year survived of if he was a casualty of the hunting season. I guess I’ll never truly know. I do know that he hasn’t turned to it to open it up. Maybe he will come back to it in the coming weeks. Dad saw a guy today, but he was hunting right next to the road. Brian saw a few does.

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