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Return to Deer Camp

Bobby Bass

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A light snow is falling off and on as I come to a stop. It's been awhile since I was here, over three months. I pull the Jeep off the road and grab my day pack. From out of the gun case comes the old short barrel .22 that I bought from a neighbor almost thirty five years ago. The stock has been refinished and it's on it's third scope. The leather sling is the original and now it is open as wide as it gets to fit over my shoulder. I drop several shells down the tube and slinging the day pack over my shoulder I close the hatch on the Jeep. With the old .22 in hand I step off into the woods. Last day to go chasing rabbits in the woods so I decided to take a hike to the deer shack. Don't really expect to see any rabbits but it's good to be in the woods and hunting again. Snow is a lot cleaner here then it is in town, no plow to toss dirty gravel and rocks up on the banks. Tracks everywhere, deer and rabbits and few mouse trails. I am sure under the cover of snow there is a highway down there for the mice and moles and more then a few holes for rabbits and grouse.

Been sometime since we have had any snowfall, most of the tracks are rock hard in the crusty snow. I had snowshoes in the Jeep but I didn't take them out, no need as long as I stay out of the gullies that don't see any sunshine. I start off down the old tote road to the deer shack. Easy walking and in some places on the hillside grass can be seen. The sun already working on removing what little made it to the ground under the pine trees. Taking my time I walk on top of the crusted snow and in a few places I break through to the softer snow beneath. Coming around a bend in the road I spot a rabbit who is hiding behind a skinny poplar tree. The tree not more the a few inches across has the rabbit with nothing but his head behind it hiding. I play along with the game and continue to walk on by. The rabbit frozen, nothing moving but his black eye fixed on me. As I get closer he inches forward a hare to keep the skinny tree between us. I chuckled to myself and continue to walk on by. After I pass he moves out from behind the tree and continues with what he was doing.

The old .22 in it's sling hangs from my shoulder as I have decide that I am just going to take a walk and not really hunt today. Just good to be outside and in the woods. The smell of cedars and pine is thick in the air. Not a lot of movement, not like fall with leaves falling and the pesky red ground squirrels barking and chirping at you as you try and sneak through the trees. In the distance I can hear the Caw caw of a crow. I stop and listen, turning my head to find the direction of the crow. Just above the trees the black wings brush the tree tops as it fly's in my direction I see the crow. Making like the rabbit I stand behind a slender birch and wait. When he is almost over head I step back from the tree and wave my hands over my head. The crow like a plane in a dogfight takes sudden action. He drops a wing and darts downward and to the side away from me. His loud Caw Caw warning everyone that I am there.

Another ten minutes of steady walking brings me to the deer camp. I stand at the tree line and like all the other animals in the woods I watch and wait. Nothing seems out of place, snow on the roof and no trail to the outhouse. The hanging post seems lonely and empty standing by itself. The ground around the feeding bin is trampled down. Even the grass is gone around it. I walk to the shack and make a trip around it, Windows are all intact and the shutters are secure. I step up on the porch and leave a few foot prints in some old wind blown snow. Reaching in my pocket I pull out the key for the lock and lifting the rubber that covers it I slip the key in the lock and hear it click. I remove the lock and turn the handle, With a little creaking the door opens and I step in. Light from the door splashes across the kitchen floor and right where it should be the log and pencil sit on the old wood table.

I tap my boots against the door jam knocking off snow and step inside. Looking at the log I see no one has been here since the end of December and the end of grouse season. Two birds were taken down by the swamp. I take a walk around the shack and everything looks fine. I grab the WD-40 and oil the padlock. An extra squirt on the hinges just for good measure. I make an entry in the log and place the book and pencil on the table. I secure the door and make sure the rubber covers the lock. For fun I back down the stairs leaving footprints heading in to the shack but none going out. I continue across the parking area lifting my feet high so as to not drag my toes and give my ruse away. I hit the tree line and turn to take a short cut across the hillside and back to the Jeep.

As if on cue it starts to snow again, them big flakes that you can almost hear when they hit the ground. With the sun disappearing behind clouds the wind, what little of it that there was is gone. I pause at the top of the hill and leaning against a big maple scan the hillside below me. Looking at snow and shapes of trees I think back to deer hunting and how I watched as the first snow fell. About a half mile from where I am standing I saw the big buck last season. With snow melting on my face I pull my collar up around my neck. I go to turn and walk around the Maple when I see just a flicker of movement. I stop with my foot in the air and there moving slowly through the falling snow is a big buck. I ease back behind the tree and lower my foot back to where it was. I peek around the maple and watch as the deer moves away from me and slowly starts to climb the hill. I move to the other side of the tree just as the deer comes to the top of the hill and looks back my way. I can see he has already dropped one side of his antlers but his other side is still there and impressive. I hold my breath and watch. He looks right past me and then turns and goes over the hill.

After awhile I continue on my way towards the Jeep. The snow keeps falling and now it is deep enough that when I turn I can see my tracks trailing off behind me. I make it to the Jeep and unloading the .22 I wipe it off and put it in it's case. The day pack find its way on top of the spare tire less the water bottle and a candy bar. I close the lid and walk to the drivers door. There in the snow are hoof prints as big as an index card. The prints go around the front of the Jeep and then follow in my foot steps that I had taken a few hours ago. Now I am wondering who was hunting who. From the deer shack here at Lake Iwanttobethere..

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