Dennis Dezendorf

Art by Joey Dezendorf A few years ago I was hunting with a friend and he put me on a sure-fire stand. Doe were legal game that day. The predawn air was bone-numbing, and as I sat in that tree in the morning darkness, the chill of November seeped into my hunting coat until I lost the feeling in my feet. Frost clung to the leaves overhead. As dawn broke and the sun started its climb through the branches of the forest, I eagerly awaited the warming rays. By eight o'clock, I had shucked my jacket and settled in to watch the woods and admire the colors of an autumn forest.

A flock of crows flew overhead, raucously discussing some important crow mission. The thermos of coffee at my feet was a pleasant companion, as was a peanut butter sandwich in my pocket. At some point I dozed, wakened by the rustle of leaves overhead to watch a cat squirrel playing on the branches above my stand.

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of modern life, I had forgotten what it was like to sit perfectly still. The woods I watched were oaks, mainly, scattered across a creek bottom. Behind me, on the hill, was a growth of new pine, the planted trees standing shoulder-to-shoulder, like sentinels in ordered ranks. The view to my left overlooked a small clearing, with the remnants of summer clover growing in patches in the sun. A meadowlark strutted about, her yellow chest puffed out impertinently as she searched for bugs or seeds.

By ten o'clock the coffee was gone and the sandwich eaten. I dropped the thermos to the forest floor and adjusted my posture in the stand. The winter sun warmed me and my head dropped to my chest. From time to time a noise would disturb me. I would open one eye and scan, close it and open the other, and scan. Satisfied that all was well, I would doze again, only to be awakened again by something that went bump in the day.

A crunch of leaves captured my attention, and my eyes beheld a young doe stepping into the clearing not more than 50 yards from my stand. Where she came from remains a mystery. It was like she had materialized in the wood line to take two steps into the clearing. She put her head down noiselessly and began to crop the clover at her feet.

The rifle I carried was one of my favorites. A lever-action in .35 Remington, with a low power scope. I had perfect confidence in the rifle and my ability to hit with it. I raised the rifle and studied her through the scope. She raised her head nervously and looked around, then continued to crop the succulent clover. A deer-fly bothered her flank, and I could see the muscle twitch underneath the skin to dislodge it. The hammer came back smoothly and I took up the slack in the trigger. I remember seeing the black ring near her nose move as she ate. She lifted her head again and tested the wind.

Suddenly the hunt was over. The shot was an easy one. She was mine, won fairly, but I didn't want it to be over quite yet. I continued to watch her and felt her nervousness as she grazed. She took a couple of bites and looked up, watching and listening. Her ears swivelled like radar, testing the wind for sound. She knew that something was in the meadow, something not quite right. She raised her head for another look around, and our eyes met—hers in the meadow, mine through the scope.

Ever so delicately, without making a sound, she backed into the woods and was gone.

I unloaded the rifle and lowered it to the leaves, climbed down, collected my thermos and walked back to camp. Somehow, the day was brighter, the colors more vivid, the sounds of the woods were like music. Later that day, over a cold glass my friend asked if I had seen anything. I told him that I had seen a yearling doe but hadn't had time to take the shot.

He looked at me over the campfire and smiled.


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