Natural Pursuit
Lane Williams, Division 2, 12th grade #ws17e-s3d2

The door looms ominously before me. I pull on my gloves in anticipation of the bitter cold it promises on the other side. Although I am now sufficiently covered with my face being the only skin susceptible to the elements, I still stand there, not quite ready for what I am about to face. However, sunrise is fast approaching, and I have a good bit of perilous ground to cover before it arrives. The vile door swings easily on its hinges at a twist of the knob to unleash the full force of the frigid draft. Knowing return is not an option, I reluctantly press onward into the biting breeze with visions of my warm bed, prematurely left, turning cold all too early.

A glance at my phone resting in my gloved hand tells me the time is five o’clock A.M. I have only a half hour to traverse the treacherous terrain. Opening the back hatch of my parents’ Jeep, I equip myself for the task at hand. My massive compound bow comes out first. I then strap on the string release to my hand over my glove. I know I will probably have to redo the ordeal after taking my gloves off later in the morning, but right now I cannot bear to be gloveless. I select my sharpest and truest arrows to fill my small quiver and shut the hatch. The last thing I do in preparation before mounting the all-terrain vehicle before me is to look around for the dog. It is an odd custom, but my grandparents’ dogs, in particular, are very fond of deer drives. Seeing no fur about, I gain peace of mind knowing they must be sleeping soundly in the warm garage. Finally, I climb aboard my grandpa’s small four-wheeler.

My hands are already numbing through my gloves as I meander along the path of a driveway towards the horse pasture. Passing through the gate, I think I spy a deer on the horizon, but I realize it is just Speckles, my grandpa’s gray speckled, white horse that is as stubborn as a mule. Disappointed, I motor over the ground towards the back of the pasture. Mud would normally be abundant in this area, but the cold air has frozen it solid. I stop just short of a hopelessly overgrown barbed-wire fence. I locate an opening in the cold-strangled vegetation at which to cross the dilapidated barrier. Placing my bow on the ground beyond the fence, I carefully step over the wire, which is no easy task with my layers of baggy warmth-conservers. Retrieving my weapon, I resume my trek on foot. I follow an open trail downhill, guided only by moonlight, until it ends abruptly. I attempt to fearlessly traipse into the black woods but am quickly frustrated by thorn bushes. I wisely decide to unsheathe my flashlight and continue to pick my way along the hillside, now guided by illumination. Even with my light shining, I am frequently frustrated in the thick growth as I cross a wet-weather wash and begin to ascend the other side of the ravine into which I have descended.

I temporarily exit the forest and plod through a field, my goal being the woods beyond. My boots crunch the frostbitten grass into the frozen dirt. As I continue on, I cannot help but notice the dew frozen on the stalks causes them to strikingly resemble the wispy white hairs on a wise man’s head. The stalks wave steadily in the breeze, continually pointing me onward towards my destination. Here the moonlight is brighter, so I switch my light off temporarily until I reenter the gathering of tangled, leafless, bark-clad trees. In the beam of my light, I finally spot the first glimpse of green I have seen since entering this near-winter wood. I sweep the light to reveal the short, green sprouts of what deer hunters call a food plot. This plot was planted in early fall, strategically located in a clearing of the wood near a bluff that overlooks a murky creek.

I am beginning to sweat from my journey as I carefully climb the ladder of my destination deer stand. Finally seated, I survey the beauty before me as the morning sun begins to stir just beyond the horizon. Soon it will slowly awaken, bathing this wood in golden, warm rays. I will be able to clearly behold the sprawling beauty of the hills and crackling leaves, of the dull cedars and bright winter clover, of the fields, in the distance beyond the bluff, that have been long ago harvested. Hopefully, the pinnacle of my beauty-beholding will be when I behold the beauty of the majestic whitetail deer, rack shining and hide shimmering. This is what nature means to me. Nature is the thrill of pursuing elusive wildlife and reliving our ancestors’ struggle for survival. Although my survival does not hinge on my success this day, the quality of my meat for the next year certainly does, as beef can never hold a candle to wild game. A wall-hanger and a full freezer is certainly the goal, but even if success is not found this day, it will be a day well spent enjoying God’s creation and the sheer artistry exhibited therein. As this thought passes from my mind, I smile against the lessening cold and lay my capped head against the rough oak bark to grab some shut-eye as I patiently await sunrise and the day’s hunt.
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