Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020

After being in the woods on Tuesday, I decided I would set aside some time at the end of the week to get in the woods with Dad. Since we always hunt in this area for the last weekend of muzzleloader season, I wanted to check another spot to weigh my options for the weekend.

As I neared the place I wanted to check out, I saw the woods littered with orange ribbon. The trail went down the mountain and paralleled a tack trail I’ve had there since I turned 14 years old. Yup, the tack trail is basically 40 years old. I feel like giving the people some advice to take the ribbons down and just follow the tacks, but I’m assuming they must not be going in before daylight, otherwise they wouldn’t need the ribbons to guide them to their stands.

As I meandered down the hill, I found a few spots where people had stacked logs and rocks to sit, too. I can’t begin to explain how disheartening this is to me. It’s an area I’ve hunted my entire life, and it’s on state land that is basically all but impossible to get to from any other location than the two local leases that border it on the back side. I’m a member of one lease. I joined it many years ago so I could access the state land that I was brought up on before all of the local lands went up for leasing and became posted. Many people know I hunt the area, too, but it doesn’t seem to matter. I understand the fact that I’m not around too much and that it’s state land. I guess it probably bothers me because I’ve always tried to avoid the places I know other people spend a lot of time in. While it’s impossible to do all the time, I’ve done a pretty good job with it over a 20-year period. I just like to avoid people and where they set up. It just makes life easier.

After I swallowed the cup of bad tasting whatever it was, I continued hunting. I couldn’t concentrate, and my mind wandered from one place to the next. I thought about conversations I’ve had, moments I’ve shared, and moments I’ve spent alone on that mountain. All of these things I saw tonight were hard pills to swallow. I know I have to swallow them and move on. Nothing good lasts forever. I’m hoping it just drives me to find better places in the area, although I know the area like the back of my hand. There are probably better places, but these places are my favorites and have been since I was 14 years old.

Time moves on and doesn’t wait for anyone to catch up. Here are a few moments I’ve shared along the way in these spots that seem to be all but gone from the way I’ve always seen them. Now, a parade of people has found my quiet place: the place I still go to just because I know I will be alone.

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