I sit in trees a lot.
OK. That’s not entirely accurate. I sit in one specific tree a lot. For one month a year. And really, not much happens there. Or so it seems.
Come November, you’re likely to find me perched in a large hemlock, 15 feet up, checking out the surrounding terrain and waiting for something exciting to happen. Not that much exciting ever happens. But if it does, I’m certainly ready.
My friends call it “my tree,” and though I’m not the actual owner, I do have squatters’ rights, or something like that. For squat (or sit) I certainly do.
I’ve attached a tree stand to that hemlock, you see, figuring that all of the deer sign in the area meant that I’d have no trouble filling my tag each hunting season. All I had to do, I innocently figured, was sit. And wait. And watch. The plentiful deer would do the rest.
Alas, it hasn’t worked out that way. The deer herd now is a fraction of what it was five years ago, when my hunting buddy and I first spied the tree, marked it on our our GPS units, and vowed to come back later.
I don’t sit in my tree every day, of course. I still prowl about, still hunt, and stump-sit in different spots. When push comes to shove, though, I always find myself in that sturdy hemlock. On that parcel of land, I’m convinced that it’s as good a place as any to fill a tag.
Some pals ask me why I insist on hunting in an area that hasn’t paid off … yet. I’ve got several answers, none of which make much sense to anyone but me.
The deer — some deer, at least — are still there. I see their sign, not far away.
I know the area intimately. I know the red squirrels by name. I know where the deer will come from (if they ever come) and which way they’ll be heading … I think.
But most of all, I simply enjoy sitting there, high above the forest floor, watching … well … let’s just say, “waiting for something to watch.”
Over the years, a few deer have stopped by for brief visits. Few. But enough to convince me that I’m not entirely … well … out of my tree.
My tree stand is a double-wide model made for wide-bodies like me. Or, to be more clear, wide-bodies like I used to be before I lost nearly 50 pounds this year. In truth, the stand is designed to seat two people, and on occasion I’ve shared it. Most days, however, I simply take advantage of the extra space, sprawl out, and enjoy the scenery.
The crisp, brittle beech leaves rustle relentlessly on breezy days, refusing to relent to the increasingly chilly autumn, and scurrying squirrels and ground-foraging birds spend their mornings trying to sound like deer.
The sun filters through the trees, rising behind my right shoulder, setting over my left. I’ve seen each cycle take place countless times, sometimes shivering, other times sweating, always aware that I’m in a special place.
I’ve watched the woods wake up, been entertained as the denizens of the forest (all save deer, apparently) go about their daily work, and sat stock still in that pre-dusk silence.
I’ve sat in my tree during a howling windstorm, when the sound of other large trees falling in the distance convinced me that I might want to call it a day.
I’ve strained to hear another footfall in the forest, waved my hat to warn off fellow hunters. I’ve been rained on. Sleeted on. Snowed on. And pelted with bark by an irate red squirrel.
The tree is his, too, you see. For 11 months of the year, at least, it is.
But during November, it’s mine. I sit in it. I look. I listen. And eventually, I’ll see the deer I’ve been waiting for.
Of that, I’m certain. Kind of.