Sometimes when I am setting out in the woods hunting deer or hogs or fishing a backwoods creek for catfish or white bass, my mind backtracks though the years to sights I’ve seen in the outdoors, not necessarily events but sights that were so amazing that they are permanently engrained in my mind. One such sight occurred many years ago on a deer lease I managed in east Texas. The land was owned by a big timber company at the time and on a remote hillside I found an old abandoned cemetery with markers dating back to the 1800’s. Some of the graves were sunken in and many had flat stones covering them. I had heard about the old cemetery but had not seen it until after dark one evening in early winter when I was walking back from a spot I was hunting near the back of the property. There was an old wrought iron fence in bad repair surrounding the cemetery and the entire enclosure was covered in vines and dead limbs. Fungus grows on dead or decaying wood and Foxfire, which is a form or iridescent fungus, had grown on the dead wood giving the place a faint greenish glow under the full moon that was high in the winter sky. I remember setting on a log for several minutes taking in the sight. The winter sky was velvety black and the stars were shining like diamonds. I took several members of the lease back there during a full moon to observe the phenomenon. I haven’t visited that spot in over three decades and I often wonder if it looks the same, probably not but I get in a very peaceful mindset every time I recall the scene.
Another less dramatic but equally intriguing scene I remember was up in Illinois on a bowhunt for deer. I was perched up in a ladder stand alongside a meandering creek. The sun had set and I waited until dark to climb down so I wouldn’t disturb several does that were eating acorns nearby. Again, a full moon illuminated the woods. Overhead I heard whistling wings. A flock of six mallards circled above me and made a tight spiral down to roost in the creek. I can still see them silhouetted against the full moon and see the moon’s reflection in the water below. I remember the sound of each duck landing on the water directly below my stand. The ducks landed in an almost perfect circle with the moon’s reflection in the middle, definitely not an earth shaking event but one that I will never forget. What were the odds of me being in that exact spot at precisely the perfect moment to witness something this spectacular?
When guiding up in Colorado a few years on an archery elk/bear hunts, after a couple weeks of taking hunters out and being in need of a bit of rest, I positioned my hunter in a treestand on a heavily used elk trail and walked to a little patch of oaks. I leaned against one of the larger trees and did a bit of cow calling, mostly to let my hunter know my location more than to attract elk. He was hunting on a hot trail elk were using to come to water. I dozed off for a few minutes and when I opened my eyes, there was two young bear cubs starring at me from about ten yards away. I instantly went into semi panic mode. Where was Mamma? She had to be somewhere close by. I remember waving my cap in efforts to run the babies off, and then I stood up and continued efforts to scare them into leaving. It didn’t work. They were not the least bit afraid of me and very curious as to just what they were looking at. I was probably the first man they had ever seen. Then I heard that deep guttural grunt a bear makes when it is unhappy! Some call it a ‘huff’ but this old sow was grunting and grunting loudly. I could definitely hear her but couldn’t see her back in the thick growth of mountain mahogany. By the sounds she was making, it was obvious she was only a few yards back in the brush. She must have been talking “bear” to her cubs because they instantly galloped off into the brush to join Mom. I was very happy they obeyed Mamma and I didn’t have to deal with an irate mother bear face to face! In this same area, I encountered a mountain lion that had taken up residence at an elk wallow my client and I was hunting. I have written several times about the lion that wouldn’t leave. The big male stalked within mere feet of my hunter that was setting in a makeshift blind beside the elk wallow. I watched the entire event from the side of the mountain about sixty yards above the wallow. I vividly remember wondering how to handle the situation. Should I remain quiet and hope the big cat would go on its way or should I charge down the hill yelling and screaming in hopes of scaring the big cat. I chose to yell and scream. The cat was not impressed and set on his haunches then about 25 yards from the hunter. At the time, firearms were forbidden during archery season in Colorado. We backed out or there with the lion starring us down. A sight I will never forget!
On a more peaceful note, I was fishing up in Saskatchewan a few years ago and hooked into a 16 inch walleye. When I had the fish boat side and was about to land it, I spotted a big wake coming straight at my catch. A big northern pike, actually the biggest I have caught to date grabbed my catch and sunk his long sharp teeth in tight. My guide there at Cree River Lodge advised me to just hang on and keep steady pressure on the big pike. After a few minutes of steady pressure on the rod my pike came boat side and my guide managed to net him. He still had his teeth clamped into that walleye when we put him in the boat. A big pike is one vicious predator!
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