Friday, Dec. 11, 2020

Dad wanted to move a stand today, so I offered to help him. Although he has been doing better, I don’t want him trying to do things he shouldn’t be doing alone. I decided to give up my afternoon to help him. If we finished in time, then I would do some scouting for tomorrow.

Amazingly, we made quick work of the job, and Dad was happy with the result. Actually, I was satisfied with our work, too. I felt good about it when we were done.

As I wandered toward the bottom of the mountain, I paused in a place where Rob used to always sit when the three of us hunted the area as much as we could. We all had our spots to sit, and Rob’s spot was in between where Dad and I usually sat. As I stood there, I couldn’t believe that with all of the changes over the years, the two runways that used to go past his hemlock tree were still there, and the deer were using them regularly. It was awesome to see and warmed me to the bottom of my soul.

Smiling, I continued toward the ridge where I killed my first buck. When I got there, I was disappointed to see that there wasn’t too much sign there this year. I’m not sure why because good acorn years usually bring a lot of deer to the spot.

I didn’t stay too long, but I did take a deep breath while thinking of the many things I’ve experienced on that part of the mountain. I’ve dragged many deer out of that gully, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It’s hard to believe that no 4-wheelers existed back then. We dragged deer all the way from the bottom of that mountain up and over it and back to the road. I’m not sure I ever appreciated it as much back then as I did today. Today, I realized how hard it must’ve been. We still do our share of dragging, but there’s something about that time period that resonates with me. I watched Dad and Rob Miner drag more deer out of there than I could count. Every time we went there, we never saw less than 10 deer between us, and somebody always killed a deer, even if it was a neighbor, cousin, uncle, or friend. Those time were some of the greatest times I’ve ever experienced while hunting. Those days gave me the mental attitude to succeed no matter where I hunted. They physical and mental strength needed to hunt there was second to none. There were no cut out roads or easy-to-follow paths. Instead, there were overgrown logging roads that were nothing more than faded places in the leaves where tires had once created ruts in the mud while skidding logs.

My father and his father logged the area long before I was ever a thought in my father’s eye. He has known this land like the back of his hand since he was in his teens, just like he brought me in there when I was in my teens. It’s a place that we have both seen change in numerous ways. Just as I learned how to hunt there — so did Dad.

As I walked out along the base of a huge ledge that towers over an old logging road, I looked at the top of the ledge and remembered the time I was waiting there for Dad and could see deer up on the top of it. Then I remember when Dad drove it off for his brother Claude, who died with his family in a house fire in Hudson Falls, N.Y., and Lloyd Burch, who has since passed away. Lloyed shot a hug 6-pointer on the drive, probably one of the most memorable deer my father was ever a part of on that mountain. I still remember them bringing the buck home on the back of Dad’s white car, and it there was blood all over the car. It’s definitely not something you see in current times. Most deer are hidden from people’s sight. Claude had carried his .35, the gun I used to kill my first deer, that day. Unfortunately, my cousin or uncle has that gun now. I would love to have it, but Dad tried getting it back a time or two without much luck. I’m highly disappointed that I don’t own that gun. I know what it meant to Dad, and I know what it means to me. Dad and his brother bought that gun and a shotgun so they could use the guns together, but that story is for another time.

Glancing to the top of the ridge, I felt tears well up in my eyes as I waited for my father. His struggle this year has been unbelievable to watch. It’s only fitting that we are ending the season together in the place that taught us how to be hunting partners, father and son and best friends. It showed us that we could expand our horizons and search for what every deer hunter dreams about. I’ll feel indebted to that mountain for giving me the skills I needed to succeed while deer hunting across the region and across the country. It all allowed me to want more for myself and realize I could help my own situation, which is why I let a nice, small 8-pointer walk past me earlier in the season just a short distance from where I stood tonight while waiting for Dad. If I can shoot deer with big antlers, I will do anything I can to make that happen. Then again, sometimes smaller deer excite me, too. Every situation is different, so I enjoy every one of them, whether I kill a deer or decide to let it keep walking.

We will see what the weekend brings. I’m looking forward to being with Dad this weekend. At the beginning of the season, I didn’t think he would be able to hunt at all this year. I”m thankful he was able to get out there quite a bit this year, even if he wasn’t able to go too far at times.

I’ve attached a picture of the Rock. The other picture is of me when I was the age I started sitting at the Rock with my father and learning about life, hunting, fishing, and who I would become as I got older. I never imagined I would still be returning to that hallowed ground 45 years later. I still go there to find myself and maybe strike up some of the magic we sued to experience there. This is another one of my quiet places, a place I can still go and enjoy the peace. Today, there were no ribbons all through the woods around it, and no sign of rocks or logs stacked up where people had been sitting. Instead, other than the logged off area around it, the rock still resembled a place I’ve always known — for now. They say no good things last forever. I can only hope they’re wrong with this particular spot.

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