Age and experience bring wisdom, and that sixth sense that defies logic or explanation. Something was there, but what? The wind was swirling and periodically a familiar smell met her nostrils. She looked around, eyes and ears straining and alert, body motionless, poised like a statue. She looked up at the swaying aspen crowns and lower at the brilliant yellow maple saplings whose leaves were sprinkled over this area like confetti. The forest floor was noisy with a carpet of fresh fallen leaves, dried by the windy day and impossible to traverse in silence. She had heard someone calling, but where was it now? There was that smell again. She had come to know that smell and the person to whom it belonged. It gave her a sense of comfort and curiosity, and at the same time, a sense of fear. Hence, she felt no need to call out in alarm, or stomp her feet, or even to run away, but she was still guarded. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen then twenty, she stood there still. Several times she looked up at the darkish oak cluster twenty yards away. At times, the smell seemed to come from that direction, but she could see nothing. She lowered her head and found things to interest her. Twenty five minutes now. Her sixth sense told her to turn and go back from where she came.
Age does bring wisdom and a sixth sense that defies logic or explanation. I was standing and facing the other direction when I thought I heard another squirrel – but no. Not a squirrel. The wind was swirling and brisk, making it difficult to hear anything at all. In slow motion, I went to ready, turning and sitting, while at the same time slipping my release on my bowstring. Any overt movement was executed behind the tree next to me, and every other move was exaggeratedly slow. I could not see anything but I knew something was there. Squirrels don’t break twigs and they don’t sound heavy. Neither do they have a slow cadence to their stride. I strained my eyes to look deep, through all the trees and brush. There is was! A tail flicking, twenty two yards away. I locked in on the movement. The doe moved exactly downwind of me, and popped her head up in an acknowledgement alert. The wind swirled again and my scent was gone for the moment. She took two steps and exposed her vitals in a shooting lane. I went to full draw and held, but did not let the arrow fly. It was a ‘thread the needle’ shot, my favorite kind. I found myself suddenly fascinated with this older mature doe. She scanned the woods and put her head down. I let down on my draw and decided to wait. My heart was pounding now. Five minutes, ten minutes, then fifteen. The deer was frozen in place with only her head and eyes and ears working. She looked right at me several times, once for three minutes straight. I held tight. I knew she could smell me, and I knew my smell was familiar to her. I had farmed the foot plot in the distance all summer and until a month ago, had stocked corn feeders in the area as well. Familiar or not, my smell was fresh and not distant, and I was not the deer she thought she heard grunting a few moments before.
Lady Hunter and lady deer held their stalemate for five minutes longer. The lady hunter decided not to shoot and the lady deer decided to go back from whence she came. Both ladies had a wisdom brought by age and both had a sixth sense that defied logic or explanation. Each knew the other, experientially and now viscerally. Each knew the other was there before there was any proof. Each had a respect for the other and each tried to calm her adrenalin charged racing heart at the reality of the encounter.
The woods went gray with the dusk and I climbed down from my tree stand. I had taken the long way around to this particular spot, walking as a deer walks so it took twice as long to get here. I did the same going back, asking myself why I didn’t shoot the doe. And I realized - it was because I admired her wisdom.
© March 2006