So...I haven't written for quite a while and have debated for a long time about whether to write about the following story at all, never mind how to do it. I eventually decided to go ahead and share it, though it isn't pleasant. However, it is a reality and to ignore it and continue on presenting my hunting season without including it would seem a falsehood to me that is unacceptable. Maybe there's a learning experience here that will lead to a greater good.
Drove out to a favorite spot today, real early in the morning. I was feeling energetic and confident in my knowledge of the area, so I took some off-trail risks that really paid off, at least in my enjoyment of the morning. I hunted a long, strenuous route that began by hiking up to a ridgeline that I followed for some distance, enjoying the striking bright red sunrise (there were fires out to the east). Once I reached a certain waterless drainage, I allowed it to lead me to its bottom where it intersected a creek, and hiked up the creek bed, through shadowy, mossy trees and sword ferns. (Not sure what the name of that damn spider is that strings webs across the trail, but I've got his number now, and carry a stick to wave in front of me when moving through the thicker areas). I found a wallow, though it seemed more a drinking area for elk and deer than what the name would imply. Prints were everywhere, and that peculiar, musky stink of elk urine. (It seems strange to love something as outwardly disgusting as the smell of an animal's pee, but I do. Makes something wild boil up in my blood). Hung out there for a good hour, hoping something would appear, then practiced my cow-call a few times to see if it would stir anything up. When the raging bull I expected did not make an appearance, I followed the stream to it's head, and climbed out on another ridge. Saw some quail blow up in front of me, and didn't bother to waste an arrow.
I finally found a set of fresh deer tracks, the edges sharp and standing tall in light dust on the ground. I blew gently on them and watched them crumble, so I was sure I was on to something. When I'm stalking, I imagine myself slipping through the woods like butter on a hot griddle, but I'm pretty sure that the reality is something, well, less pretty. Nevertheless, after a quarter of a mile, I found myself tailing a young deer who was feeding away from me with his nose in the wind. Couldn't have been more perfect except he was just outside of my comfortable range. I'd been practicing a lot though, and had consistently been making shots in the kill-zone at my home range from 25-30 yards, so I decided to take a chance. He must have sensed something was up as he turned 90 degrees to look around, presenting the broadside that I needed. I sent a beautifully executed attempt underneath him and he bolted at the sound of the arrow clattering off through the rocks and branches. I really can't blame the miss on anything, nor do I second-guess the decision, despite the distance. It felt right, the opportunity was earned..., those are the breaks. Smiling at the memory of how he bounced straight up as though the ground beneath him had exploded, I watched him go, then went to look for my arrow, which I never found.
I decided to go back at that point. It was starting to get warm, and we were expecting a friend to come in today, and I always miss time with Shorty, and there were probably a few more excuses to come up with. Really though, I think I knew that there was no way to top the day's adventure so far, missed shot and all. It took me an hour to get back to the truck.
At first I didn't realize there was anything wrong. Got to the passenger door and the lock was up. Called myself a dummy for being so careless, and noticed that my backpack was missing. Then it started to hit me, one realization after the other, in quick succession. My pack-board had disappeared, along with the converter I used to charge my phone while driving. The driver side was unlocked too. My sunglasses were gone from where they hung on the rearview mirror. The driver side rear window was broken out. And on and on. I spent the next hour and a half talking to confused dispatchers (how do you describe a turnout on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, and who's jurisdiction is it, and why isn't there a deputy on duty until noon, oh, I see, cutbacks...) etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Eventually I was told to go home and wait for a call; no fingerprinting, no patrol car, no "boots on the ground" examination of the scene. So I brushed the glass off the seat, and went home.
I go to the woods for the peace of mind and escape that it provides me. The irony of what had happened was a bitter pill to swallow. My wife kids me for my cynical view of humanity, and she is right to do so. I need to work harder at keeping my cynicism in check, as I'd probably get annoyed with myself if I had to listen to my frequent bitching about politics, people, and the decimation of natural areas. I did my best to get over the break-in, eventually deciding that I'd had the bad luck to step on the one turd in a field of green grass. (A metaphor I'd pursue with some enthusiasm if the reality presented itself). Now, if I could just get past the nagging feeling that the turds are beginning to outnumber the blades of grass...