Tradition, treasured memories play roles in buck firearms season
SHEPHERDSTOWN — The only sounds come from an agitated blue jay, a food-chasing squirrel and a hammering woodpecker. Otherwise, the crisp air is quiet because the wind is not barking at the hunters.
Stationed on a sturdy tree stand is a blaze-orange clad hunter hunkered against a tree in the early light of the first day of buck firearms season.
He’s done his homework as he waits a possible shot at his quarry. He has placed his stand away from the open ridges with the scattered large timber, and is positioned in an area thick with hardwoods, browse and better cover for the always-wary deer.
He’s on his uncle’s land, not trying federal, state or local government properties.
His pre-hunt time has been well spent focusing on a path where the deer move between two small hills where their daily food sources abound.
Leaves of small bushes, twigs, seeds and even the dried berries of perennials keep the deer in proper health, and they can supplement their diets with the acorns from white oaks, standing rows of now-dead corn stalks and a small plot planted in soybeans and still to be harvested.
Nearby fields give the deer access to clover and alfalfa. And long-abandoned apple orchards hold fruit that hasn’t been sprayed with insecticide. Where all the deer paths come together, piles of whole shelled corn have been left for any foraging animal.
As the dim sun strains to rise above the gray trees, now without foliage, all is set for another bucks firearms season, which began for the hunter decades ago when he was allowed to tag along with the adults for the first time.
Through the years, he has learned the signs and become familiar with the deer.
The scrapes. The rubs. The beds where the deer recharge their batteries.
Now he is the teacher of this tradition. He is one of those with treasured memories stored in a safe place and brought safely out when his family waxes warmly about the lean venison meat with its mild flavor — made into a savory roast or brought forth in deer burgers.
More than a dozen times as he progressed toward manhood has he been asked to help haul a deer from the woods because the carcass was too weighty for one person to manage.
In recent years he has been the one needing the carrying assistance.
Now he waits patiently in his tree stand. Relishing the ages-old tradition. Almost able to taste the roast venison.
He’s fortunate and he knows it. There is no buck firearms season allowed in Wyoming, McDowell, Logan or Mingo counties this year.
But here he is, sitting still in his stand as the wind minds his wishes and stays away.
The squirrel has moved on and the woodpecker is no longer drilling his way into a dead elm tree.
It’s show time . . . and the show must go on.