Are you looking for a "different" Father's Day present for the outdoorsman in your life? No doubt he would appreciate the award-winning book, "An Outdoor State of Mind," by Chattanoogan.com Outdoors Editor Richard Simms for a Father's Day present.
An Outdoor State of Mind," contains 86 short stories in sections including:
-- OF FAMILY & FRIENDS
-- WILD LESSONS I HAVE LEARNED
There really is something to touch every sportsman's heart and soul.
"This book is a diary of my own outdoor life... a life that so many others have lived as well," said Simms. "I believe this collection of stories will touch the hearts and minds of those men and women, and perhaps help them share their own outdoor life experiences with others."
Veteran outdoor writer John Sloan wrote, "it is a select club, this group of writers who so accurately create pictures using just a few words. It may well be that Richard Simms is the dean of this group."
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Deer Hunting: Heartbreak & Hunger
from "An Outdoor State of Mind"
The sun peeked over the treetops behind me, just barely painting the tips of the oak treetops high above. The orange glow was far from reaching the forest floor however. Everything down there was still a blur of pre-dawn grays.
My head turned slowly, like a lighthouse with rusty bearings. I scanned the forest in a 220-degree arc. I used to be able to scan 270 degrees, but aging neck muscles, and a layer of lard, have seriously reduced my turning radius.
I didn't see a leg, or an eye, or even the flick of an ear. But the obscure dark shape filtering through the leaves could be nothing but a whitetail deer.
Every deer hunter does it. We scan the forest constantly and as the light changes throughout the morning, it turns stumps and logs or even clumps of leaves into living things. Or so we wish. We ask ourselves, "is that a deer" in hopes our constant questioning will yield a positive response from the shadows.
Invariably however, the answer is always "no." And usually the unspoken questions are a waste of mental energy because when you really see a deer, you know it. In the forest, you will never see the entire animal. But there will be no need to question what you are looking at, no matter how small the piece of the puzzle.
There is an instant surge of adrenalin. Spurred by the chemical response, your heart mimics a racehorse leaving the starting gate, often thumping as loudly as the thoroughbred's hoof beats.
Well-shielded by trees and leaves, I gently raised my crossbow from its hook. The deer, two of them about 60 yards out, were quartering to my right. They had reached about 30 yards, but still behind thick brush when one turned straight toward me. The adrenalin surged again.
I have no idea what it was. Most likely it was a tree limb that chose that instant in time to turn loose somewhere behind me. Or it could have been another deer. I do not know, and it didn't matter. The two whitetails snorted loudly, turned tail and ran, white flags waving a sad goodbye.
"Easy come, easy go," I thought. But I held on to the crossbow.
Sure enough, five minutes later, I saw them coming back. It was clear these deer wanted to go from Point A to Point B, and I was dead in-between. I will never understand how they do it, but the 100-pound animals moved across the leafy forest floor as quietly as I can walk across the living room carpet in socks. The lead doe is thirty yards away again, yet I still haven't heard a leaf crunch.
At 20 yards I could barely make out dainty footsteps, and she was still coming. Unfortunately she was coming straight at me and it wasn't clear if she would pass to the left or the right, or directly beneath my ladder stand. I silently wondered with a grin if it would be bad luck for this deer to walk underneath a ladder.
This is the moment of truth for an archery hunter. Had I been holding a rifle rather than a stick and a string, this deer would have died long before this moment. But archery hunting is up-close-and-personal. You often can not shoot until you can count the ticks on their ears. It is a special feeling to have a large wild animal pussyfooting through the forest mere feet away, and totally oblivious to your presence. It is a feeling that keeps more than 200,000 thousand Tennessee hunters heading back to the woods time after time. It is addictive.
At the 20 yard mark, heading straight in, I realized I had made an egregious error. I did not stand up in my stand. I was still seated, and every hunter knows that a right-handed shooter cannot shoot to the right while sitting on their butt.
Nor had I found the right time to raise the crossbow to my shoulder. I slowly twisted as far as the limitations of my creaking body would allow, praying the doe would step behind a tree for a moment.
She never did, and she kept coming. At 12 yards she turned to my left. That was good, except the woods were wide open here.
After 40 years in the deer woods I consider myself an experienced hunter. I know better. But no matter how experienced or how wise, sometimes the adrenalin rush gets to us all. She was a mere 36 feet away. I should have allowed her to walk past and waited patiently for the right time to move. My mind however, hyped up on adrenalin and blinded by greed, decided "now!"
I raised the crossbow to my shoulder, not slowly like cold molasses, but with a jerk -- which in the deer hunting world, means I'm the jerk.
Defining the word "instantly," she bolted. Like a finger on a hot stove, in mere milliseconds she proved that her instincts, honed by centuries of selective breeding, are still very much intact.
But almost every deer also carries a "curiosity gene." That is the gene that sometimes make them stop and look back to see "exactly what that was."
She did that; stopping quartered away at 20 yards, slightly screened by maple leaves just beginning to turn autumn red. No more than one second, maybe two has passed from the time my brain took over my body and said "now." The bundle of nerves called "me," is now in the panic mode, wondering if starvation is in my future.
I snap shot. Which means the sight barely found the deer's rib cage as my finger was yanking the trigger.
The crossbow bolt disappeared in the blink of an eye, however there was no resounding "pop" of broadhead piercing hide. Nor was there the typical lurch of a mortally wounded deer. This animal left the scene with head held high and again, the white flag waving an even more determined "goodbye."
As they are prone to do, she stopped about 60 yards out, stomped her foot and snorted. It is an alert signal for all other deer in the area. The deer are not talking but I also believe it is done out of frustration, confusion and maybe even anger.
Whatever the reason, it is quite demeaning to a hungry hunter who must watch with wounded pride. I stared at her closely, hoping - no, willing her to falter and go down after having been shot through-and-through.
I knew better.
She finished her "goodbyes" and continued back from whence she came just as the sunlight began to climb down the trees, now painting the leaves she once walked on.
I breathed for the first time in what seemed like several minutes. Climbing down I found my arrow lying, bloodless, at a 45 degree angle to where I had shot.
One of two things happened. The arrow either glanced off a limb while in route to its appointment with her heart and lungs. Or she gave the arrow a good hard kick as she ran away.
If it was the latter, I'm sure it was accidental -- I think. But the thought did even more damage to my already horribly bruised ego.
With plenty of good morning left, I climbed back in my tree to lick my own wounds. The fact that I have two deer in the freezer provided a little solace, but very little.
I could only sit, reload another arrow and wonder why missing is such a bad feeling. It makes you sick, boring a hole in your primal soul. That hole is centered in your stomach. And that bad feeling is a deterrent. A primal reminder that there was time when missing could kill you.... and your family. It is a manifestation of hurt pride and fear.
Fear that you will not survive, that your family will not survive and that maybe your species will not survive.
I know it is not true. There is money in my pocket and a grocery store right on the way home.
But my soul hasn't caught up with my culture.