THE KNIFE
- by David Pickens
October 12th started cloudy and was filled with showers. I fretted over coffee; the morning
hunt was a wash out. After checking and rechecking the weather forecast and radar for a
glimmer of hope for the afternoon hunt, the last check showed a divide 75 - 100 miles wide in
the rain bands. I would have a four-hour gap or so on the weather forecast.

I re arranged my fanny pack, getting everything in order. I placed the hand-crafted hunting
knife that Mel, a hunting friend of mine had made, in the usual inner safe section. Before I
placed it there I unsheathed it to check the edge. As I held it I got a strong feeling about the
hunt to come later this day.

Three-thirty saw me on my way up the mountain. Half way to my chosen tree a heavy shower
started. Damn, where did this come from ? As I was placing the climber on the tree It
increased in intensity to the point I considered packing it in for the day, but something kept
telling me to stay put, that it would clear and be good hunting.

I climbed up to my usual 27 feet and locked in for the afternoon hunt, rain dripping off my cap.
As I placed the gloves and head net on it stopped raining. A quick glance to the west
showed blue clearing skies and a beautiful rainbow. Ah that is more like it. Perfect indeed
with enough wind to break up any movement. Or at least help cover the drawing of the
bow.

Twenty minutes later a pair of does and a fawn came down the creek bottom. They stopped -
milling about to feed on acorns. One bedded not 35 yards from me as the other two
munched mostly on some big yellow leaves that had fallen along with an occasional acorn.

Later a pair of bucks, one 4 point and the other a 5 point came down the other arm of the
creek where the two intersect and joined the milling. Now I had five sets of eyes to avoid.I
thought they will move on as they usually do. Not so. They all seem to use this new brushy
depression as a lounge area.

Yet more deer came up the big creek off to my backside some 50 yds
behind me. So now I was semi-surrounded. Occasionally one of them would do that "I think I
see some thing B/S"  while they were milling in and out of sight. Sitting rock solid still for the
better part and hour and a half is hell.

I finally figured out they were passing to go wet their whistles at the creek and feeding a semi
circle heading down and up the mountain to hit the few acorn trees I have. Seemed to be
picking everyone of those big yellow leaves as well. I dunno what they were.

Suddenly I heard a twig snap to my right where a series of rubs had been made in the last
two days. I looked and saw a pair of bucks kinda circling one another. They were playing at
what would come later. Merely shoving and tapping antlers. One was 6 point, the other a
seven pointer. The seven pointer approached the rubs and inspected them for foreign
scent. He rubbed his antlers with gusto while the other buck watched. Left with nothing to do
the six point spied the does and decided to play chase up and down the bottom. Nothing
serious just play. The does caught my eye with that "I gotta lower my body and act all coy and
shy"  slink away act. Now if I could just rearrange my back for some relief.

As the six point trotted back to join the seven, they started to circle around behind me at 40
yards or so. As they went past a brushy dogwood I blew a soft young buck grunt call and
focused it to my front side and up the hill. They stopped, looked and then turned and headed
back to take a peek-see. The line would take them 18 - 25 yards to my right. Gotta see
what all those other eyes are doing. All others had fed off 35 - 40 yards to my left and up the
hill some.

As the six point passed 18-20 yards, I placed the release on the string and got ready to
draw. I was trying to watch all the deer for any alerts that may ruin the setup and shot. The
seven came into the lane a couple a minutes later. As he entered the opening I drew
anchored, settled the pin and released the arrow. I watched it melt into his ribs. Perfect. I
stood to watch as much of his trail as I could as I always do to aid in trailing. This time i got to
see it all!

He ran across the wet weather run and started up the hill. As he hit the logging road he
slowed somewhat. He started up the steep part of the mountain with three big leaps. At the
end of the third he whirled down and back over his hocks, and rolled back down the mountain
40 feet or so. As he slid to a stop he lay still in death across the logging road. What a sight
and memory. I silently asked, "How did you like that, Mel?"

I've visually tracked parts of deer trails leaving the kill area but this was special. We saw it all.
Release to fall. The seven pointer was not one of the bigger 8 points and nine points I had
seen. But he just had Mel's name written all over him. I hope Mel was watching and enjoyed
the hunt as much as I did.  You see Mel died some months earlier. I thought of Mel and his life
as I walked out under the canopy of the heavens to get the 4 wheeler. What brings us all to
different forks in the road of life and why do we choose the route - paths we do. A mystery
with little if any clues left behind. As it should be I suppose. As I once again drew the knife
from its sheath I thought, "Damn special hunt and day in the woods."
                 

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When you get to Heaven all the Dogs you've ever Loved run out to greet you !
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