Written by Kelly Baker; Cove Humor
Ah, Deer Season, a celebrated and time-honored tradition so sacred in rural Pennsylvania that local school districts take the first day off. I used to hunt. My dad started training me as soon as I was old enough. He took it very seriously.
“Do you really have to wear those glasses?” he asked me once, back in my Jr. High days before contact lenses. “The sun is going to reflect off of them and you’re going to look like a big shiny beacon in the woods. We’ll never see any deer if you wear those glasses.” (Ok, this is not verbatim but it was implied that my glasses would be a huge handicap.)
“But Dad,” I said, “I’LL never see a deer if I DON’T wear them.” (It would be in the interest of the reader to know that I was severely near-sighted. I couldn’t even see the TV from the couch.)
The day before Buck (because back then Buck and Doe were two separate seasons) I was not allowed to put anything on my body that might have the least bit of smell on it. No hairspray, no makeup, no perfume, no deodorant, no lotion, scented or otherwise was to touch my skin or hair. I know, it sounds like one of the rules in Leviticus. Basically, I took a shower using the least smelliest shampoo (NO CONDITIONER!) and dried off. That was it. This was back in the early 90’s when big huge hair was a must for girls my age. Didn’t I look pretty at church the Day Before Buck (capitalized to show the importance of the occasion) with my sad, flat, un-poofy permed hair and my big sun reflecting nerd glasses. It’s a wonder I ever married.
Odd couple that we were, my dad and I made a good hunting team. I couldn’t see very far and he couldn’t hear out of his right ear so there we sat, back to back, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Deaf. If I heard something I would discreetly indicate the direction from whence it came. If he saw movement, he’d do likewise.
And there we’d sit, completely motionless for hours. “Thou Shall Not Move” was the #1 commandment for hunting with my dad. It didn’t matter how cold it was. All you hunters out there with your tree stands and GoreTex, and hand warmers and electric socks – CHEATERS! By the age of 17 I was more of a man than you. It would be 11 degrees out. I’d quietly beg dad to PLEASE light a hand warmer. He’d say no, the deer will smell it. Back then we had the kind where you lit a piece of charcoal and kept it in a nice little asbestos lined velvet case. You’d put it in your pocket to stay warm. Theoretically. I know. You’re still back there on the asbestos lining part, wondering how old is this lady? A hundred? Who still has asbestos anything? Stay with me and focus here people. As I was saying, the pocket/hand warmers were for “emergencies” only. I guess that time I got hypothermia and laughed the whole way down the mountain and back to the car didn’t count as an emergency. But when you’re dad is a graduate of Parris Island you can probably bet he’s not going to let you take any shortcuts. Ooh Rah.
“Thou Shall Not Make Any Noise” was the second greatest hunting commandment. For a guy with a bad ear he sure heard every mistake I made. The first few years of my training I got more than a couple dirty looks for snapping a twig or crunching the leaves too loudly with my clumsy adolescent feet. There was no noisy nose blowing. Oh no. The options were: 1. Quietly and sloooowly (no movement, remember?) wipe your nose with a dark colored hanky (not white, for God’s sake, someone might see that white, think it’s a deer tail and shoot you in the face!) 2. You could hold one side of your nose shut and shoot the snot out of the other. Then switch sides, which is quieter than you might think, if you’ve never tried it. Or 3. Let your nose grow snotsicles to drip down onto your lip. This was a terrible option because it would chap your top lip and who wants snot running in their mouth?
Dad’s school of sneaking whittled me out to be an A-1 prowler. These abilities come in handy in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve when I sneak up to the neighbors to quietly install those ridiculous inflated Santa’s on their front and back porch. When they wake up in the morning, Surprise! There’s a fat 5ft. Santa waving at them through the sliding door window. Thank my dad.
It’s been a decade or more since I’ve gone hunting. After I got married, my husband became my hunting partner. He did not have the same strict training or discipline I was taught to display when in the woods. He’d cheerfully use a hand warmer, stomp through the leaves, or if it was really, really cold, throw me the hunting knife and announce, not very quietly, he was going to go sit in the truck with the heater on for awhile. When he’d come back, I’d hear him shuffling through the leaves for ages before I’d see him appear. And he’s a wrapper crinkler. Such noise. All we were missing was the trombone and base drum, but that’s not why I quit going.
The older I get, the more I dislike being outside in the cold. When you hunt all day, you want to come home to a nice hot meal and fall asleep. When you’re the wife, you have to hunt all day then cook the hot meal yourself. Then clean up after the hot meal. On years that it’s not so cold out, I still don’t go. I’d rather take a nap on the couch than in the woods with ticks crawling all over me. (Welcome to Pennsylvania, Lyme Disease Capital of the World!) Every now and then a deer will find its way into our freezer via death by Chevy Malibu and I’m fine with that, as long as my car is not debilitated in the process.
Good luck to all you hunters out there! Be safe. If you find yourself with any extra bologna, bring it to my house.
And now, some poetry to commemorate the season:
My First Doe
By Kelly C. Baker
So serene and graceful
I saw a young doe grazing,
She didn’t hear or see me
As my rifle I was raising.
And through my scope I saw up close
The prize for which I sought,
Just two more steps she’d need to make
And I could take my shot.
I watched her fluid movements
Admiring her features,
In awe as one is wont to do
in presence of such creatures.
There was no white tail flickering,
No panicked look of fear.
I squeezed the trigger gently,
The cross hairs on the deer.
My shoulder didn’t feel the kick,
My ears heard not the blast
That echoed through the ridges
It was over in a flash.
The doe had dropped where she had stood,
She didn’t jump or run.
I turned on my radio and said
“Fellas, I got one.”
Now some may think it vulgar
To kill a deer for meat.
But to them I just say “Hey, a girl has got to eat.”