As I reflect back on my first several years of deer hunting, it becomes ever clear to me that hunting is indeed a "Waiting Game". I play by the rules. I set a date as to when I will go out clad in full camo, then before sunrise, I find my perch in a tree or my spot in a ground blind and I wait. For an evening hunt, I'm already there "waiting" by afternoon. I wait some more.
I've discovered that deer do not play by the rules, at least not the deer in my neck of the woods. It seems that somebody forgot to tell them of the date I had with them. They have little regard for the words, "Hunting today", that I had written on my calendar, so I sit and wait and wait. Patiently most times, but sometimes after hours of waiting, my mind begins to wander. Not that it's a bad thing, mind you, it gives me time to reflect. I reflect on how cold my feet are, or how I forgot my release, or I wonder if I brought enough toilet paper this time. I did bring some along this time... didn't I?
Sometimes I think about the maturation process of playing The Waiting Game. I believed so strongly my first year of hunting that a nice big buck would just walk right by my stand and stop broadside for me so I could make that perfect text book shot. That's the way it has happened for countless others and I was told it would happen for me. Or should happen. Well, that it maybe could happen. It didn't though. I was so frustrated at the end of my first deer season, that I wrote a poem. Actually, it's a parody of a country song by Bryan White, "Someone Else's Star", that I changed to reflect the gray mood I was in.
~Deer Hunters Lament~
Out here again tonight
Without a deer to tag
Stars are shinin' bright
Just want a buck to bag
Oh I wish I may
And I wish with all my might
For the deer I'm dreaming of
And missing in my life.
You'd think that I could shoot
A big buck of my own
It happens all the time
To hunters that I know
Their arrows all fly true
So I've got to believe
There's a big buck out there
Who's meant for only me.
I sit here in the tree
And stare down from the sky
But I can't give my bow
One good reason why
Everywhere I look
It's hunters that I see
Seems like everyone has deer,
Everyone but me.
* I guess I must be wishin' on someone else's star
Seems like someone else keeps gettin'
The deer I'm wishin' for
Why can't I be as lucky
As those other hunters are?
Oh I guess my deer is ridin'
On top of someone else's car!!
This is what I do when I play The Waiting Game, but as the years went by the frustration level began to wane. That's not to say I was unhappy never filling my tag for 6 years, but I began to have more fun out there just playing The Waiting Game.
I became more in-tuned to the trees around me... what type they were from the shape of their leaves and the texture of their bark. I became more aware of what bird just made that sound, or what critter was it that was burrowing under the leaves by my stand and which owl made that hoot. I discovered a whole new world of flora and fauna that I had not experienced before. I took it all in: the varying lengths of shade that the trees cast as the sun began to rise or fall, the way the sun felt on my face when I turned a certain direction and the degrees of chilliness that a breeze could have on my body. I was a sponge. I soaked it all up.
These are the things that my mind wanders to when I play The Waiting Game. Sure it would be nice if that doe that's just out of bow range would come closer, but I'm able to learn of her habits from far away too.
Playing the Waiting Game is also the time when words of rhyme flood over me. While sitting on my stand one November afternoon, tiny little snowflakes began to fall, thus began the first two verses of a new poem. When the snowflakes stopped falling, the words no longer came to me. It wasn't until the next morning while out on my stand again, that it began to snow once more and the words came flooding back. I was able to finish my poem while playing The Waiting Game that day. In fact, I wrote them on the old board walls of the permanent tree stand I was in for the landowner to discover some day.
Tiny Little Snowflakes
Tiny little snowflakes
Falling from the sky
Their mamas pushed them off the clouds
So they could learn to fly.
Descending from the heavens,
They shimmer oh so bright
They cover up the darkest ground
And try to make it white.
Some land in treetops way up high
While some dissolve, I wonder why?
The ones that fall, I watch them come
I open my mouth and stick out my tongue.
I taste their coldness, Oh so wet!
I swallow them down
With no regret.
But just as quickly as they come,
The snowflakes stop, their time is done.
The Waiting Game. Every hunter plays it. Sometimes the wait pays off for those who are patient enough to abide by a deer's time schedule. Sometimes we're better people for just playing the game, regardless of any deer in our sights.
I can't wait for this fall to come, just to play The Waiting Game once again.