For some of us, the end of the season empties the soul like a north wind shakes through the beech brush

As the Winter Solstice and Christmas loom, those of us that hunt deer in the Southern Zone of New York state face the fact that the deer season is over.


The fat lady has sung.


The final buzzer will have rung once again down through the deep hollows, up across the steepest ridges and back down through the most tangled-up swamps where we chose to be. (Late bowhunting/muzzleloading ends here December 17, 2019 this year.)


The end of deer hunting rattles with its obnoxious reverberation across the brown goldenrod fields, through the thick buckthorn, and power-line slashings.


For some of us, the end of the season empties the soul like a north wind shakes through the beech brush.


The final buzzer completes the deer season like the period at the end of this sentence.


Finality.


Now begins the process of learning to live with all those what-ifs and mistakes, misses, missteps, and fickle winds.


Hard to let the misses and screw-ups go.


Sometimes, something happens and they’re called back up to our conscious mind. Maybe stored back on a mental shelf somewhere, kind of dusty, way in the back. Got some new ones right up front. Pushed the old ones back.


Now it's done.


We had the buck of our dreams right there.


A lot of whitetail bucks made it.


They are all holed up now, laying there, right now, chewing their cuds, flicking their huge ears, checking out every wayward scent and sound.


Mostly nocturnal now near the longest night, that winter solstice (Dec. 21, 2019.)


Now deer season is over.


Done.


And a chill, an existential emptiness will run for a while and then slowly dissipate through the holidays.


Whitetails are entering their dormant phase too.


They need to recoup from the rigors of their breeding season when food and rest are put on the back burner and they run all day and night.


Breeding bucks run their fat off.


A long time looms, actually the longest time before the next deer season comes 'round again.


A bunch of seasons need to tick by first.


Takes a while for the bucks to get fat again, ornery again, and grow those horns.


It will be a long time before we once again find ourselves comfortably tucked deep in the woods, holding our breaths as we hear every "crunch, crunch, crunch ..." in the frosted leaves.


Our hearts skip.


Our knees shake.


Our thoughts are so loud they're made out of wood.


But now our bows and guns need to be checked and cleaned for the final time and stored away.


Venison packed and wrapped in the freezer.


The guns safes are locked.


The longest nine months is between deer seasons.


Fishing times will be here, long before we once again see that flash of antlers through the trees.


Embedded seasons make up that eternity of slow clock ticks.


First, winter needs to plod past on its slow, cold pace.


Spring is as short as a glance, up here at the top of the northern-most thrust of the Appalachians at the top of the Eastern Triple Continental Divide. Big long words for deep wooded hollows, challenging steep ridges, places where cell phones still don't work.


Summer, the time of the biting bugs, goes on forever.


But Canadian systems will eventually chill the evening air again.


Damaged maples along the roadside turn red first.


And something turns on in us.


Our hearts beat again with that rhythm of the deer hunter, growing strength and steadiness once again.


A long time from now, here at the end of the deer season.


Oak Duke writes a weekly column appearing on the Outdoors page.