KIOMATIA – It was a crisp, calm morning.
At first light the only sounds that could be heard were those of nature – a barred owl signaling the night’s end and a murder of crows announcing daylight’s arrival. Two cat squirrels barked as they raced up and down a massive old oak whose days appeared numbered based on the size of the hole rotting away at its base.
The younger oaks announced the coming of colder weather dropping their acorns. But they didn’t rain down. They dropped sparingly and sporadically, a sign of bad acorn crop.
Fifteen feet up I sat in a ladder stand attached to a broomstick-straight oak that was left behind after a recent select timber cut. It is a location I found last spring, and this was the first morning I sat there as a hunter.
I didn’t know what to expect. I had seen tracks in the woods leading to a freshly sprouted wheat field a hundred yards behind.
Would those deer come within range of my crossbow?
Would a deer even appear?
I had been in the stand for more than a half hour when the sun started to rise over my left shoulder. I surveyed the area around me. Although I was in East Texas I could see almost 200 yards in any direction. That helped reduce the boredom.
The stand sat at the intersection of three logging roads leading to an old log set in the nearby wheat field. Last spring the remnants of rubs were evident everywhere. That wasn’t the case, at least yet, this fall. But it was still early.
As I watched the morning, and for me a new deer season, unfold I thought about a book by Dallas outdoor writer Ray Sasser, “View From a Tower Blind: Reflections of a Texas Whitetail Hunter.” It is stories of those magical mornings deer hunters have from time to time.
There is always something special about sitting in a new blind for the first time. Sometimes the events are good and sometimes they are bad, but hunters always remember them.
My first time in a deer blind was on a friend’s ranch in Sutton County. It was in the 1970s and blind construction was pretty primitive. We were lucky that another friend’s father owned a steel fabrication company so we started with a fairly sturdy frame of angle iron.
The blind itself was half-inch plywood on the sides and bottom. There was no top, meaning you better pause that last step up the ladder to make sure the blind wasn’t already occupied by an owl, ringtail cat or a raccoon. Even if the animals weren’t there, they almost always left evidence of having stopped for a visit.
I shot a couple of deer from the stand, but I remember it more for the skunk that had a den under it for several years. It always came home at first light, and for those few minutes it took to disappear underground I sat motionlessly hoping not to spook it.
There was another stand on the ranch that was more memorable. For obvious reasons we called it Windy Ridge. The stand was held upright by thin guide wires tied to equally thin mesquites. To be honest, though, I never sat in it before it fell to the ground. After that spring storm the blind was never again square, but if you didn’t mind leaning a little it wasn’t a bad spot to see deer at a distance moving along Windy Ridge.
Through the years came improved stands around the state. There were also those blinds I would really rather not go back to. They were too hot, too cold or just in a horrible location.
I have sat in blinds that cost more than my first new truck. Some of them seemed almost too plush to feel like you were really on a hunt. However, I only say that now. At the time I remember them being pretty comfortable.
So as I sat atop the ladder I thought about those deer blinds past, and the view around me. From a hunting standpoint it wasn’t a great day. Those signs didn’t materialize into any sightings of the real thing.
Then in the afternoon a rain started to fall. Dressed in a rain suit I really didn’t mind. The temperature was mild and the country needed the rain. It wasn’t until the thunder started just across the Red River in Oklahoma that I decided sitting perched on a metal ladder leaning against a tall oak wasn’t the best place to be.
The next morning was like the first, but better because a few deer did walk by. They were a little out of range, which in an odd way may have been a good thing.
I was enjoying the view from the blind.
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