By Tyler Hardy
The end of November ushered in cool days and cold nights. The sun was giving way to the blast from the north as wave after wave fought back the warmth of the southerly breeze, and leaves began to make drifts like dirty brown piles of snow.
The earthy smells of the woods cleared my head with the relaxing aroma of oak and cedar. The effects of the drought seemed to have brought an unusually large acorn crop, and they crunched under my boots like ice crystals as I walked to my stand.
The climb into my stand was easy after a long hard day at Mississippi State University. With each rung of the ladder I found myself looking forward to the peace and rest a hunter finds being above it all, looking across the trees and scrub bushes, marveling at God’s creation, settling in for a memorable afternoon. As my mind began to drift and my eyes danced around the landscape, I thought of what might be lurking with the snap of each twig. Would this be the day I would get my trophy buck?
The squirrels played snatch and grab with the acorns and each other, barking and moving gracefully around the trees. A mother squirrel crossed a limb that braced against my stand. She was carrying in her jaws a little one to a new winter home.
It was such a quiet afternoon that even small sounds seemed loud. Suddenly the squirrels stopped and stood at attention.
I dared not move a muscle. My ears were my sight now, and I did not have to strain. There was a musk smell mixed with pine and cedar, ever so faint.
Then I heard the thud of a large deer coming down the bank of the canal. Dirt was plopping into the water. There was a big splash, and then the thud began to sound again.
I could hear a deep billowing of the lungs as the deer struggled against the upside of the canal. My hair stood on end as the animal made a sucking sound with his teeth, then a relaxed breath. Thud, thud.
Now I was sure it was a buck just 20 yards away, coming toward me. I could not see him in the thick underbrush, but his musky smell was strong, and the sound of his massive body could be heard in each footstep.
A bittersweet sick feeling came over me in a wave when I realized the buck was returning to the canal. In my mind’s eye, I could see him taking a step, and then holding a foot up in a majestic pause with the water dripping off that hoof.
Splashing water could be heard as he continued to walk away from me. Then there was the sound of earth moving as he climbed the bank.
I caught a glimpse of a flock of turkeys as they flew up to get out of the way of the buck.
Or they my trophy buck? I will never know for sure. I will paint antlers and body mass on that buck for years to come in my imagination. What a memorable afternoon just outside of Starkville, Miss.
Perhaps the memories we make are just as important. Well, that’s what I keep telling myself now.