Finally, the time that we bow hunters live for is here.
The pre-rut of the whitetail deer comes to us slowly, almost silently, but methodically with an even cadence, the same way a big buck walks through the woods at this time of year.
After all, we made it somehow through the time that all bow hunters bemoan, the dreaded "October Lull," when bucks seem to crawl in a hole, never to be seen.
Late summer feeding patterns have dissipated.
Even nocturnal trail cam shots of bucks are sporadic and inconsistent.
And we feel like maybe the Lull is defining our season with no end in sight.
But now, as we approach and honor the 11th hour of the 11th day, Veteran’s Day this year, the big boys will be on their feet during the daytime, running their scrape lines, ravaging brush and saplings near doe feeding areas, and terrorizing other bucks.
Hope is real. The best is yet to come and gets better each day now.
My biggest problem ... (well that might be overstating things a bit, but why stop now?) ... is staying out of my best rut stands.
Sure, I know they are good right now, but if I get in them too soon bad things happen.
The first bad result is no matter who we are, how we de-scent ourselves, or what type of ozone machine we use, or what spray we douse our gear in; we leave ambient scent.
Can't be helped.
And deer know, especially the old does and bucks when a hunter frequents a stand too much. They pattern us better than we pattern them.
Now I've heard tell of some stands that are magical stands. These stands, whether in a tree or a ground blind always have the winds and thermals blow the right way, never get a bad gust that alert deer. So hunters can sit in them day after day. In those stands, scent doesn't build up and the hunter is virtually undetectable.
But I have never seen a magic stand, though a lot of hunters I have known act like they have one.
I don't have a magic stand.
Wish I did.
I have to play the bow hunter chess game, switching stands all the time, actually more like checkers. I jump from hunting property to hunting property all in an effort to not spook the deer.
But now, on the cusp of the rut, those mental board games that are played out in the woods are about done.
Soon now, since the rut is going to break throughout the Northeast and the Midwest, in early November this year, success in the form of a shot opportunity on the buck of our dreams comes to those of us that are the most patient, tenaciously stubborn, and able to set aside everything else in life, no matter how compelling, to do one thing... to sit in a tree or a blind.
And when the moment is there we have to make the most of it.
We rarely get a second chance, a second arrow. (But it does happen.)
Have to live with the miss on the big buck all year, and sometimes longer. Some misses haunt us. These crystalline misses sit in our minds like a bad dream, some for the rest of our lives.
That moment of the shot is a sliver of time. Bear down. Pick a spot in a spot. And don't lift your head to peak or the arrow will fly high. Always follow through, even with your heart beating like a bass drum and your knees shaking as the adrenaline washes through like a gust of wind.
Easy for me to say now when the heart rate is normal.
No adrenaline surging through the old circulatory system making the simple act of breathing something that needs thought.
And please, for the sake of humanity, speak to yourself nicely and with a bit of respect. Sometimes when the bow is drawn back we talk to ourselves.
And I can’t write some of the words here.
My best mental game is if I can lift my eyes off the buck and its rack for a moment as it steps into range and think instead about the beauty of the moment, the lighting, the picture.
Find that bit of calmness and peace, just as you loose the arrow.
Oak Duke writes a weekly column appearing on the Outdoors page.