A Magical Season

Posted on November 29, 2011

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“To look through magic casements it is not necessary to climb imagination’s pinnacles. All one needs is patience and a sensitive receptiveness. In these strange days in which ultra-modernists would classify as outmoded all that is not salacious and sophisticated, it is salutary for us to look on ancient beauty which grows not old; on primeval woods, still wearing the mantle of mystery; on green meadows; on powerful, silent mountains whose majesty lures the heart away. They have a power to restore us and to make us place a juster emphasis upon the natural loveliness of the world and a lesser importance upon the artificial.”

                                                                                     Archibald Rutledge

To say my deer season was magical would be an understatement. In a hunting career that spans 43 years the nostalgia is thick and lingering. Memories of thrilling victories: the conflicts with hoofed and horned quarry, vanquished bucks that now have found their final glory amidst the hard-work room.  However, I can honestly say I’ve never had one filled with so many continuous blessings. It was truly a divinely appointed time.

 

Day four of the hunt found me high atop a ridge, slowly and methodically making my way along a deer trail. The wind was blowing out of the Northwest, as forecast, which allowed me to crosscut it as I moved. My destination: a small rivulet of a stream that flowed between two rises where I would then work straight into the wind. Viewing my GPS I realized that I was still two-tenths of a mile away, and continuing my present course would place me at a marked disadvantage with the wind to my back.

Before I could decide my next option, the wind suddenly changed direction and it was now hitting me square in the face from the Southeast. This unlikely phenomenon allowed me to continue on my path, but I now see that it was providential. Three steps level; stop, look and listen.  Then, like the reverberations of distant thunder I heard hooves hitting the moss-covered rock 30-yards out and to my right…

 

It was no accident that I was hunting this location.  Last year on the only day there was snow present, I tracked a buck from the road below up onto this ridge. As I tracked him he led me to numerous rubs and scrapes, especially along the stream I’d been working towards today. Although I did not come out with a dead buck that day, I walked away with a wealth of information and insight that put me where I now stood.

 

The buck came out of his bed in high gear with his hind legs extending well ahead of his front. My initial assessment, which if you’ve ever been in this situation you know boils down to a fraction of a second, was, “heavy antlers, big body.” As he vaulted at breakneck speed, my rifle was reflexively leveled and when he hit the only opening I had, I sent the leadened pill towards its mark.

 

I’m reminded of the proverbial words of Rutledge that states, “Each deer hunt should make sporting history, not create mystery with hunters giving refined dissertations on how the buck successfully escaped into the eternal, inviolate sanctuary. We want to see the old boy fall to the forest floor with his last race run as if he had been struck by lightning.”  And that is exactly what happened; I rolled him as if he had been hit by lightning. As I approached the downed beast, a finishing shot was required. And then the flood of emotions: tears, laughter, gratitude, satisfaction and appreciation all rolled into one special moment. Admiring this magnificent creature, I quickly realized there was no ground shrinkage here. “Wow,” I thought, “what an absolutely incredible buck.”

 

It wasn’t until I attempted to move him for photographs that the full magnitude of the buck’s heft began to sink in. Two immutable facts immediately came to mind: he is definitely larger than the buck I got last year (225 lbs) and help was definitely not coming. I was just over a half-mile from the road and had six hours to get him out before dark.

That was when ten months at the gym doing both cardio and weight training paid-off, and let me be the first to tell you, short of that diligent effort every day, there’s no way I’m hauling this beast out alone, especially on bare ground.

I was unable to pull him due to his immense size; instead I had to hitch him the entire distance. I would set my rifle, coat and pack 50-to-75 yards away, clear the path back to the buck and drag to the accoutrements, then repeat the process. Periodically I checked the GPS and the time; I was actually moving the buck a tenth of a mile per hour.

 

When I was approximately 500 yards from the road, standing on a flat, energy nearly depleted, the sky turned eerily dark and without warning, a bolt of lighting hit, a clap of thunder sounded and hail began descending. Ordinarily, thunder and lighting is a bit scary to me. But as I stood next to the buck there was no fear. In fact, the immediate thought I had was of Moses on Mount Sinai, shrouded in a cloud of darkness amidst thunder and lightning, where God spoke with him. Was Jesus speaking to me? I believe He was as you will see in a moment.

 

Five hours after I began dragging, the buck was finally roadside. Wet and completely spent, I stepped onto the dirt thoroughfare to go and retrieve my truck.  A vehicle was coming toward me. I flagged them to stop and it happened to be a local trapper and his wife. He happily agreed to assist me in loading the buck into my pickup.

When I asked him if he’d seen the flash of lightning and heard the thunder he exclaimed, “No, and I was driving slowly with the window down.” He then informed me, “It’s lucky for you that I came along as there are no other vehicles on this road.  I’m the only one and my trap line is several miles long in either direction.” WOW!

With an hour to spare before dark, and with a lot of effort from both us, we managed to tussle the buck into the back of my rig.

In the ensuing days, while waiting for my hunting partner to arrive, I spent countless delightful hours photographing huge bucks. I got action shots unlike any I’d ever had the opportunity to capture before. The magical moments just kept coming.

 

 

 

And then, on the ninth day of my partners hunt, he shot his first deer.  It was an eight-pointer, and an event I had the privilege to witness. (More on this in a future post.)

 

And if all this wasn’t already enough, the next morning at 9:12 my second grandson, Malachi Edouard Bernier, was born with a live weight of 8 pounds, 2 ounces and measuring 21 ½ inches.

 

“Strange are the ways of life.” Rutledge writes, “Yet I for one am glad there is much we cannot explain. It gives us a sense of the reality of the Unseen. All that we see perishes. For the strength that is permanent, we have to lean on vision; for the immortal hope, we have to trust, not the things that we can see, but those invisible things that our spirits affirm. Our constant meeting with mystery gives us an awareness of the things of the spirit.”

 

My heavy-shod, burly-horned, seasoned old strategist tipped the scales at 253 pounds. His ten-point rack netted 145 2/8” and based upon tooth wear, he was 6 ½ years old…truly a grand old monarch.

All images on this site are copyright protected and the property of R.G. Bernier

    © 2011 R.G. Bernier Nature Photography – All rights reserved.

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Posted in: Whitetail Deer