Hunters strain their ears for that sound from October through January, the reward for frigid fingers and stiff legs from hours spent motionless in the stand. Other sounds can be misleading; rustling leaves could be just another annoying squirrel, snapping twigs could be a groundhog blundering by, myopically moving from den to water. But that blow can mean only one thing, and it’s enough to get my heart thumping, even when I’m in shorts in my garage and not nestled in deep cover.
I immediately put down the sander and slipped out the open door, careful to not make too much disturbance so I could spy where my four-legged friend might be. My house is situated on three acres in the middle of cornfields with little to no cover, so deer sightings from my yard are rare. He was bounding up my grassed waterway with those effortless leaps that cover so much ground with so little movement, legs like natural springs propelling him forward along the field edge. As he slowed, I could roughly make out little velvet-coated nubs, the promise of fall bone yet to come. He stopped, looking around, seventy yards away by my novice ranging eye. I swear, I held my breath watching him, even though the only thing I had to lose was the beautiful image in front of me. I stayed undetected as he casually moved south, nipping at a corn stalk here, a grass head there. He was gone in an instant, although my hunter’s heart and brain felt like I had watched him for hours.
I hope he comes back to visit more this summer so I can see his rack grow and change. Come fall, we may have a different relationship, but for now, I am content enjoying his company as often as he wants to visit, The welcome mat is always out and I wish him the best as he navigates through the dog days of summer in Illinois.