By Nick Simonson
This week marks an important point of return. I don’t know if that’s a real term, but it’s far less ominous than “the point of no return,” which has had its share of dramas, dark songs and thriller type novels written about it. The point of return, however, is that point in time where we’re now closer to the start of a hunting season than we are to the end of the previous one, and it should be celebrated.
With New Year’s Eve typically the last day of bow hunting in most northern tier states, those final chances in the field typically come in late December, where a brief post-holiday warm up or a still evening allows for a sit on stand in the quiet woods or along the edge of a solid two-toed hoof trail in the first accumulated snow of the season. With the start of the next archery season set for September (give or take a few days for wherever and whenever you might read this), we’re now at the point where there are fewer days between us and the start of the next season and more leading back to the memories of time in the field last fall.
While I recognize there’s tons of fishing yet to be done, and as always I am getting just a bit ahead of myself, I find my thoughts more frequently drawn to the experiences of autumn that have slowly taken over many of the highlights of my annual outdoor adventures. Whether it’s the excitement of scrolling through the first few hundred photos that come from a trail camera in late July, the sweat on my brow and the measuring of distances through various shooting lanes in August, or that moment on stand in early September when the doe and twin fawns that are usually the first deer to walk by my perch on a misty opening weekend morning and start off the season with the first rush of adrenaline.
Along with the point of return comes the many tasks to set up a successful season, which it could be argued, is now fast approaching as I kick my proverbial feet off the pedals and let the downhill slope take me home. At the top of the list is the breaking in of a new bow and some ideas on stand repositioning after a number of hunts resulted in deer walking on the far side of the field from my normal vantage point. Additionally, I’ve located a couple of new spots to hunt on public access land, which even during the gun season remained largely untouched by the orange-clad throngs and resulted in some memorable outings and ultimately, a punched tag last season. It’s my hope that bow hunts in the areas thick with buckbrush and timbered draws would produce the same close encounters and a shot at something exciting outside of the firearms season.
Additionally, the deployment of trail cameras always tops the list of things to do, even early on in the summer, as I enjoy watching the bulbous velvet antlers grow from a couple of brown knobs out into rounded tines to smoothed points which give way to the bony crowns of fall. Rounding up memory cards and stocking up on batteries are part of the ritual this time of year and planning out the placement of these eyes in the field always requires some adjustment over the previous season’s deployment. From putting them lower on the tree, to moving a salt lick to draw deer into camera range, to finding the trail with the right amount of traffic, many factors come into play in the next couple of weeks to get these digital scouts prepared for their summer mission.
For someone who didn’t come up deer hunting, and who goofs things up in the field far more than he ever succeeds, time on stand in the fall has become a pastime that challenges upland hunting for the top spot on my list of things I most want to do. Perhaps it’s the relative newness in comparison to my other pursuits, or the indescribable adrenaline surge that even just a doe can bring from my knees through my belly, past my thundering heart on up into my throat as she unwittingly slips by my stand at seven yards. Whatever keeps me orbiting this great autumn adventure, I am happy to have passed the point of return and began making my way back to the start…in our outdoors.