The Circle of Change

Posted on March 3, 2015

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We shall not cease from exploration

and the end of all our exploring

will be to arrive where we started

and know the place for the first time.”

                                                 T.S. Eliot

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The amber glow has all but faded on the horizon extinguishing the brilliance of an autumn’s multi-colored tapestry once set ablaze in a stunning mixture of rich colors. In stark contrast, leafless trees now stand statuesquely on guard as the landscape is transformed into lifeless dormancy beneath a blanket of snow. All too quickly Mother Nature has once again reclaimed the vibrancy of another autumn.

The huntsman, who, with the first frost of an early October morning breathed deep in anticipation for what lie ahead. With his senses invigorated he readied himself for the annual pilgrimage to the forest where he would ply his woodcraft and cunning against the wiles of a formidable whitetail. In the hunter’s absence the buck has been busily preparing for his most poignant role. Physically, he paws at the leaf litter and polishes his ivory tines, battering defenseless trees and shrubs. Psychologically, he tests his resolve to be the most dominant on all who care to challenge his position. The stage has been set, with all of the actors in place, for a dramaticly stimulating experience. If you try real hard you can almost visualize, feel and smell these seductive impressions. These sensations are poetically brought to life in words penned by Archibald Rutledge:

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The tattered gold of yet unfallen leaves forms fragmentary arras marginal to mystery. Though an amethyst light is fast suffusing the lonely forest, heralding dawn, one great white star trembles like a gleaming jewel in the dark crown of foliage worn by a mountain pine. Still is the forest with primeval stillness; there is no wind, but the woodsy fragrances themselves seem to be breathing, uttering the poignant aromas of the fulfillment of nameless longings.”

No doubt, as the season progressed, several of the hunter’s mid-summer dreams and fanciful thoughts never quite materialized; replaced by an errant shot, an unforeseen stick that was inadvertently snapped at just the wrong moment or an ill gust of wind that betrayed his whereabouts. For others, more than they could have dared imagine came to fruition. It seems that regardless of whether the fortunate chap is happily hauling out a fine stag on the back end of a drag rope or regrettably hiking his way back to civilization empty-handed, the huntsman gauges his self worth by the outcome.

Let it be known that results, whichever way the pendulum swings, should never overshadow the exhilaration of the hunt itself or the good graces to have hunted at all. Hunting is a process that should never be overshadowed by the end results. Bonds between family and friends, fathers and children, man and nature all should become a major part of each outing, and when success does shine upon you it feels even sweeter because of them.

Without the sun rising in the east to cast its first rays of light on the wooded terrain, the experience would seem lifeless. Void of the distant rustling of leaf litter announcing the arrival of a deer, the hunter’s heart would never realize the stimulating sensation this sound engenders. Minus the tranquility that comes with a gentle falling snow, the type that accumulates like cotton on a stick, the trek becomes mundane. Short of sharing the adventure with someone of like spirit, the odyssey quickly loses its charm.

 

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This mystique romances the hunt, stimulates the soul and brings great pleasure to the entire experience. Charlie Alsheimer writes, “The most important thing for hunting is not whether a new world-record whitetail is killed. It’s planting the seed so future generations can experience the greatest outdoor experience there is: hunting white-tailed deer on crisp autumn mornings.”

All too quickly the finality of another season has set in. Mournfully, your favorite rifle is once again returned to its rightful spot, but not before you bid it farewell with a sigh. The woolen attire of your autumn campaign is now also properly stowed along with every other tried-and-true accoutrement of your woodman’s kit. The chore, one that a few short weeks before was undertaken excitedly when assembling your gear for the hunt, now becomes a monotonous task of saddened reality. The game is over.

The reflections of an autumn full moon, the imprinted image of a magnificent buck silhouetted against a white backdrop, the smell of burnt gunpowder hanging in the murky air, the resounding thud of an arrow reaching its mark, the comfort of a warm cup of coffee after a bitter cold day afield, and the inner satisfaction of having been part of another deer season are all the warm retrospections that will comfort you during the long winter  ahead.

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 King Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which was planted. A time to rend, and a time to sew.”

There is no such thing as a straight line in nature. Change is a central theme in all of creation and no more so than in the whitetail’s world. In his book, Way of the Whitetail, Dennis Olson writes,

Like most of us animal-types, the whitetail is a creature of the rhythms dictated by nature. These rhythms span lifetimes, generations, and single heartbeats, but the most obvious cycle is represented by the calendar. We chop the wood, put plastic on the windows, do the spring-cleaning, or get out the swimsuits, depending on the season. Deer have their equivalent adjustments, eating and layering fat, growing hollow hairs for insulation, returning to their warm-weather haunts, and molting back to a rusty summer coat. Just being alive, of course, is a solid testament to every creature’s abilities to go with the flow.”

The whitetail, that elusive ghost-like creature we so diligently pursue, annually undergoes a metamorphosis. From the tattered ruins of blood soaked velvet dangling from calcified appendages atop his mantel, the buck meticulously polishes every nook and cranny of this weaponry. The silver sheen of his newly donned winter coat contrasts beautifully with the multifarious colors painted in sporadic fashion throughout the animal’s range. Inwardly, an arousal is triggered transforming a once docile creature into a combative beast. He becomes restless and wanders far from familiar grounds that housed him during warm summer days. Through much effort this formidable adversary has eluded the huntsman’s best efforts to capture him, and in the process, has successfully ensured that new life will emerge in the resurgence of spring. But, no change comes without a sacrifice. The buck, which personified grandeur-befitting royalty in the height of his dominance, now stands sullenly, a mere shadow of his former self. The crown he wore so proudly has been cast to the ground providing fodder for the rodent population. Here he faces the most trying of times in his attempt to see yet another day.

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As it has for centuries, the slumbering winter night will again relinquish its icy grip and melt into the resplendent bliss of optimistic invigoration. The unbroken cycle of life will re-emerge and if not with the buck itself, certainly with the spotted new arrivals that he sired. It is now under the warming influence of a summer sun that our thoughts begin to drift towards those silent hills where once again we hope to arrive where we started – in search of the white-tailed deer.

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“Over the mountain is shed the serene wild glory of the light of an autumn full moon. Its beauty hymns lyrically to the primitive in man. I am out on the lonely road now, a road leading back to the valley and to civilization. But though my face is turned homeward, with primeval yearning my heart turns backward – there toward the peace of the silent hills – the glamour of the moonlit forest – back toward the beauteous bridal of the forest wilds, deep-veiled upon the hushed and fragrant bosom of the huge sequestered night.”  – Archibald Rutledge

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Posted in: Whitetail Deer