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Alone in the Dark
The air was still and 58° and the sky was crystal clear. Walking the clovered road is peaceful, barely a sound, but turning onto the trail to the stand isdifferent. Dry leaves crunched and shuffle under my boots no matter how careful I am. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how careful you are, leaves are noisy. Walk like you belong in the woods.
Slow, deliberate scans of the five acre field as I approach turn up nothing. A partridge sounds its “quit quit quit quit quit” as it scrambles from the edge of the field into the woods. Had it stayed still and quiet I’d have missed its presence.
I drop my Prois Pro-Edition Pullover Jacket and pack to the plastic lawn chair in the stand, open the windows, and settle in for the last 90 minutes of the hunting day. The bleat and grunt call rest on the ledge. Deep breath. My goodness this place is beautiful. Hardwoods are bare except for a few leaves on the oaks in the food plot and the grass is pale but the sky is blue and crisp and clear. Blue streaks cross the width of the field on the far side some 300 yards away – blue jays. Bleats echo back to me. If there’s a buck around he’ll hear what he thinks was a wanton doe.
Ten minutes after sunset and 20 minutes before the hunting day ends, a great horned owl hoots from the east. hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo. hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo. Chilly, I pull on the jacket. It’s nice to not be clad in thermals and layer after layer of warm clothes. Jeans, shirt and now the jacket are all I need. alone in the dark
The food plot changes with the light. Legs? Are those legs on the far side? That wasn’t there three minutes ago. Binoculars give me a good look at clumps of tall oat grass, brown and dry, three feet apart. Not legs, just tan grass showing in the low light against the dark woods. The black spot half way across the field…what’s that? More grass. Before long I’ll be alone in the dark.
hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo. hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo. alone in the dark
Time check; two minutes left. I can see clearly even though the sun has been below the horizon for 28 minutes. hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo. hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo. Time check; done. The hunting day is over. I pull two 168 grain silver tipped bullets from the clip and slide another out of the chamber. I could close the window, put the bleat and grunt calls and my coffee back in my pack. It’s time to go. I value this time alone in the dark. When I can’t see what’s around me I hear more, feel more, smell more. alone in the dark
I am alone in the dark and the silence is stunning. The wind isn’t blowing, oak leaves aren’t rustling and birds aren’t singing. Nature is seldom silent. Rather than return to the road by way of the noisy trail I plan to follow the edge of the field, walking on the grass and clover so I don’t break the silence, but I stop. I stop and sit at the edge and look at the stars.
hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo. Ten more minutes of solitude and twinkling stars and being alone in the dark.
Two years ago I would have been out of breath after the first tenth of a mile up the hill. Eighty-five pounds and a hell of a lot of exercise later, this is an easy little walk. It’s pitch black, no moon tonight. Rustling in the bushes gives away the location of a meadow vole or field mouse. I can barely see a thing but trust myself to plant my feet firmly with each step. I know this road like I know the layout of my home. Ruts and puddles are predictable. Bends in the road never change. Through the woods and into the clearing, I lean against the metal legs of a stand that used to scare the hell out of me. Eight feet up a ladder, through the floor, struggling to lift myself on shaking legs. And here I am, alone in the dark, many miles from a paved road, rifle unloaded, and not a fear in the world.