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December 11 and why don't more people use Knight muzzleloaders? Because I think they don't make them anymore. Shut your pie hole. They do so. Well, okay now, but maybe they aren't distributed so much and some just regional, you know like Ying Ling before it came to Indiana….One, are you Barney Fife? You talk like Barney Fife. (A man not known for basic firearm safety, unfortunately.) Two, that's not how you spell Yeungling. Three, you know snow globes aren't distributed that well locally either but if I asked the average person-at the mall or book club or Arkansas squirrel camp or whatnot-saying, hey, average person, do you think people on this curved and shimmering blue hurtling spaceship/rock we call The World still make snow globes?, I believe most would quickly answer, Yes. Why are we even talking about snow globes?

But I digress. The hunt shall be here soon! Like the sunrise or Star Wars, that new one. Stay tuned, as the TV execs cackle before dining on baby sea turtle eggs and dialing their bankers.
(Photo of typical TV executive)

I own a Knight muzzleloader, I do. Why? Because Knight smoke-poles love nachos and yoga pants and flannel shirts and camo coffee mugs and Eggo waffles and big ol' fried tenderloins in the skillet all sizzling like the bathroom fan when the fan is FUBAR because your little brother Danny didn't install it correctly, did he? HSSSSSSSSSSSSS. But then, CLRZZNNKKK. Tendrils of smoke. Thanks, Danny. Also loves big, loud things like KABOOM and fireworks and "unloading" the muzzleloader by shooting it off into the front yard. (Knight lives in the county so anything goes. After some gas station wine [impulse buy, along with Skittles], Knight once shot at the moon.) Made in America, folks.

But I digress. Moving on to yesterday's hunt…

Been roughly. Bone-cold days of swaying in the tree. Red eyes, days of hunting. Get up 5:30 or so and drink the oily coffee and the car won't hardly start and the back-roads at this hour with only scrambling animals, low fog, hunters and crazy fools (but I repeat myself). Gear up in the frigid dark. Breath roiling out a Snoopy-shaped cloud. Creaky ligaments up the climber, clank-clank. But the swampy moundy forest floor a lovely dusting of glistening gems, sun off snow, whipped cream with ripples of bluish gray and frost on the limbs like icing or poorly mashed potatoes and so on. I'm cold. Big-ass moon all staring at me shiver. But I'm persistent. "Can't kill them from the couch," my grandfather would say, a man we should respect since he once fought a world war and also knew how to repair any engine known to man. He also made a mean coffee.

Yes I sometimes read poetry while hunting. What of it?

Here's some ancient Chinese poetry, for you.

DEER CAMP (by Wang Wei, written, you know, more than a 1,000 years ago. Tell that to the next person questioning your hunt.)

Drinking alone
when it rains day after day...

WAIT, WRONG POEM! OKAY, HERE WE GO...

Drinking in the mountains with
a recluse

WAIT, WRONG POEM! OKAY, HERE WE GO...

Empty mountains:
No one can be seen.
Yet-Hear--
Human sounds and echoes.
Returning sunlight
enters the dark woods;
again shining
on green moss
above.

No green moss this December. A day for deer movement. 25ish, light wind, snow on the ground, as I mentioned. Barometer tumbling soon. Um, deer? To 7 to 8 to 9 am. Watching spastic squirrels chase one another, a fat cardinal freezing on a cedar branch, hawk cuts through with a hssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss. Squadron of geese go honking over, the real Canada, not those that waddle around the parks and malls of Muncie and suck down hot dogs and cigarette butts. Not even sure they are geese anymore.

A whitetail glides through the forest, as we know, gray ghost indeed. But a whitetail, like a human in so many ways (even their bodies hauntingly similar, organ size, etcetera), makes mistakes. A few weeks ago I kicked at my daughter's pink bean bag on a whim. I missed. And broke my toe. Red, swollen, pulsing eggplant. Idiot…

Crack of weight on ice. Whoops. One single hoof on a branch and I peer up and south from my reading-like most predators, I first hunt by the ear. What was that?
(BTW, here's a photo of Danny fishing. He can ONLY catch suckers. He has no skills. This photo totally irrelevant to this post, but still I wanted you to see how/why he screwed up the bathroom fan.)

"You can't shoot sounds," my grandfather told me, a sage man, as I mentioned earlier. Age 12 I brought him my new shiny single-shot HR shotgun and said, "The owner's manual says I need to clean it before I shoot it. How do I do that, paw?" My grandfather put down his cheap cigar, walked to the front porch, loaded a 12 gauge shell, KABOOM! Shot it over the heads of the soybeans and handed it back to me and said, "There. It's clean."

After the ear...we hunt with the eyes…A deer! Hold up…A buck!

Hmmm, my first thought is he's a medium 8 or so...maybe, maybe…yep, I'm going to try to whomp him here. Been hunting many days and I only eat meat I personally kill and the freezer she be lonely. I put the AM and the PM, the swamp and that bedding thicket behind the pond (river otters are pretty cool, though last summer one ate my kid's bobber while fishing--odd) and that measly ragged cut corn patch and remember the time I dropped my bow from the stand and three times forgot my glasses, once my release, eight times the pull rope oddly became untied (elves?) and I fell twice tripping over limbs because I'm old and once some nosy lady slowed her dusty white Honda as I got out the car to gear up and then honked her horn over and over and yelled something at me I was fortunate enough to not get-apparently not a fan of the mighty hunter. I enter woods to avoid humans like that. Anyway, I was going to shoot this deer. Yep.

He angled west and vanished behind a tree. Poof, as deer tend to do. I waited. Waited. Then he appears east like a vapor, heading behind me, and now I'm thinking, He's got a little mass to him. And the heart starts jangling and I'm working on my breathing a bit. Feels like I swallowed a tumbleweed, maybe. Now don't look at the antlers anymore. No more antlers. I'm from Memphis, the sweet delta and blues, so let's Take Care of Business and get this done and RIP my dear, dear Elvis.

(Elvis jet, Graceland.)

I pick a clearing, lit up so wonderful in the snow. Buck glides in and I give him the ol' MEEPPPP. He freezes, no doubt thinking when's the last time a fox squirrel/nuthatch/river otter went MEEPPPP?

KABOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!!!!

Jump-kick! Hauled ass-over-teakettle to swamp, tail down (yes!), bounced into thicket, off thicket, caterwhoomp-he's down!!

Whoa, whoa…let's calm it now. Let's turn back that tach meter. Take. A. Breath. We still got to climb down and any fool knows up and down a climber is the moments when the reaper joins you for the journey (you can sometimes feel his weight). So calm down. Okay, tie gun to rope, lower gun to ground, undo strap for backrest, undo strap for top of climber, turn and find foot-loops, drop your pack to the ground-thump!-unloosen Prusik knot (named after a famed Austrian mountaineer who invented the ingenious safety system), carefully clamber down-careful, careful, breathe in, breathe out-untie safety system, hop down, untie gun from rope, reload gun (you just never know), your fingers waxy and white and freezing now, okay, calm…let's, let's go find him.

He fell by that hill in the shape of a manatee. By that log, yes? Where is he? I know I saw his twirl, stagger, fall. Where is he? in the swampy ditch? No. Thicket of white pine, sumac? No. Doubt, that wounded thing, creeps along. Heart flutter. Where is he?

THERE HE IS!!!!!!!

You know, sometimes antlers shrink. But sometimes, sometimes, they GROW. This is not a medium 8 point, folks.

This is not a medium 8 point.

This is a 12/13 pointer, big ol' weird character tines, even Neptune's trident.


Wow. Glow. I would like to thank all gods of the coyote howl at dusk, the Mountain Dew bottle in the ditch, the rustle of corn husks, the pale gray fog of the forest lit by stars. I shall now dine on beer. And venison nachos. And also nachos.


Prof
 

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Congrats on a beautiful buck! I know you hunt primarily on public so, did you also get this on public? Great animal, congrats again.
 
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