Growing up in the Ozarks I only ever went hunting one time. It was with my dad on my grandma’s property in Strafford. We both had shotguns with slugs in ‘em. I’ll never forget that time because it was the only time we went hunting and my dad ended up shooting a bird with a birdshot shell he had loaded, and we laughed together because it turned into confetti. It wasn’t until I was a grown man that I began to hunt. I had just returned home from years of active duty in the Army. My best buddy had talked me into buying a bow and going hunting with him. Matt coached me on all there was to know about bow shooting and all he knew to teach me about hunting. These were all lessons he had learned from his dad and the many years of hunting he had experienced. I’ll never forget those many conversations we had on long drives to all the different places we traveled to hunt. He was with me when I killed my first deer. I was 26 years old. It was a small yearling doe on my uncle’s property in Republic. I felt like a kid and that I had conquered some great feat. He was proud of me and that made me feel good. I watched as he taught me how to skin and clean the gift God granted me. Once I had gotten the hunting bug, it has never gone away. The true spirit of the hunt flows in my veins. It’s the strong appreciation for life and God given right that fills my soul. For the past 14 years I have prided myself in taking my boys hunting with me. It’s that quality time we get to spend together. Hunting is just the excuse. It reminds me of the joy I felt hunting with my own dad. It wasn’t about the hunting. It was about the quality time.
One of the many lessons Matt taught me about hunting was, “Don’t lay down a deer call until after the first crow calls”. I kinda get goosebumps thinking about that and the gravity of that statement. I’ve shared that with my own boys. There is something special and powerful about that first crow call. It’s like the crow is the keeper of the day. Nothing stirs until that crow calls. This morning, while sitting in my hunting blind waiting for first light to sneak its way through the darkness, I began to dose off when suddenly the crow called. I had a spiritual smile come over me. That one crow called then another. Shortly after, dawn began to break. See it’s not until the crow calls that nature wakes up. Shortly after that crow called, I began to hear a few birds chirp and sing. The bugs began to croon their songs and the squirrels poked their little heads out of their tree homes. Not long after, you’ll hear a crash on the leaves. It’s just a squirrel hopping from its tree porch to begin its day of scrounging for nuts and digging for bugs to eat. It’s about that time that I began to thank my maker, God. I thanked Him for the sights and sounds. As the rays of light began to force their way through the clouds I was reminded of His handiwork. His master craftsmanship of creating that beauty for my eyes to drink in. The breeze was subtle, and the aroma of autumn filled my nostrils. Nature had woken from its slumber and the darkness was laid to rest for the day.
It’s about this time that my blood begins to pump. No more dosing off. My eyelids narrow as I scan the wood line, looking for movement and anything that looks out of place. I have scanned that wood line many times and know what should be there and what should not. This morning was particularly cloudy. It was nice because the light of the day took some time to dominate the sky. The air was cool and the breeze continued on its course. The crow calls had begun to simmer down about this time. There were still a few but the crows must’ve known that nature was awake and their duty for the day had been completed. As I drew in the cool air through my nose and gave thanks for my land and the nature that surrounded me. I noticed something a bit off about the tree line ahead of me. I knew what it was. My eye pierced through my scope as I focused in on the doe gently moving through the Buckbrush. On high alert as it was approaching the end of safety from the cover around it, another reared its head. It was the yearling of the mother doe. Minutes passed as I watched them through my glass. I knew there would be more. As expected, another mother doe and it’s yearling had broken the safety of the trees and brush that enveloped them. Now I was watching four deer in their own habitat. What a pure joy it was to watch them. Minute after minute I was entranced by their beauty and flowing movements. I watched as a mother licked her offspring and in return the yearling rubbed its head on its mother. It was an easy shot to take. This morning, though, was about the gift of creation and watching it, being in it. It wasn’t about the harvest. I genuinely enjoyed spending time with them in their habitat.
I sat and watched them until they slithered off back into the trees and disappeared. I thanked God for the experience. The spirit of the hunt is real, and it is to be respected. Sometimes it’s okay to pass. Sometimes the better experience is to simply watch and listen. Watch and listen to understand and to feel gratitude. I thanked God for my eyes, my ears, my nose. I thanked Him for that wonderful opportunity. As I began to pack up my things and return to the house I paused and thought about that crow. That one crow that started it all hours ago. I am thankful for the day’s sentry at the gates, that crow. It’s that one crow that gave permission for all of nature to proceed on its way. What amazing things begin to happen when the crow calls.