It’s Friday afternoon and you feel the stress of the whole week hanging on you like the coat of a wet Newfoundland. You get home, cast off the crap of the week and grab your go-to pack and run out the back. Your buddy picks you up and you head to hunting camp. Finally.

Once at the cabin a fire gets started and somehow the best steaks you’ve ever tasted are on plates as everyone settles in for a serious nosh. After dinner and the plates are washed, the cards and whiskey come out.

Stories begin to flow through the cabin like the smoke from the cigars.

Whaddayamean a straight flush don’t beat 2 pair? Yer crazy, man! And on, and on. After I win…well, in my memory at least, we all crawl into our racks. I’m nervous about the morning, but not willing to show it.

0-Dark 30 arrives and we are off. I reach my stand. Tired from the hike, exhausted from the climb, I really need to lose some weight. I steady my breath, settle in, and wait. A dull gray forest starts coming alive. I try to slow my breathing more.

Bird calls that I’ve never heard before, suddenly sound familiar. I pause as I hear the scritch scritch of a squirrel.  I take a second and sniff the air.

I wait and I become one with the forest around me.

It sounds odd, but until you have been up in a tree stand, at 0-dark-30, you will not understand.

But I’m close now… I see a 10-pointer…I try to stay calm… I take aim…

While I still get up at 0-dark-30, nowadays I have coffee and a smoke on my back deck. I wait as the birds come alive around me and I revel in the hummingbirds enjoying the feeder I set out. I hear the scritch scritch of a squirrel and I remember.

I will never forget those who gave me the love of the wilds, and I will always hold in my heart the thrill of the hunting camp.

Gregor

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