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Column: The deer hunting spy: A shaky return to the stand after 35 years

I have not been deer hunting in 35 years.

Saying that, I feel like a spy just coming out from behind enemy lines, having lived and interacted amidst a culture that revolves around The Doe, The Buck, The Hunt, The Gun, The Stand, The, The, The…

A little scary.

At the moment of writing this, out in my stand at 6 a.m., the sleet pelting one of the three layers over my head seems only fitting for a spy who hasn’t come in out of the cold, but has instead decided to freeze himself half to death for penance.

Deer hunting seems at first glance to be such a simple undertaking. Go out there. Shoot one. Go in and talk about it. There are instead so many details. I thought my stand, which is about 10 feet high and was constructed for me by a nephew, was solidly placed when I put it here back in August. Instead, it swayed back and forth so crazily when I climbed up into it that in the darkness, I nearly got seasick.

Every move I now make is answered by one that the stand makes. If I move my head to the left, the stand vibrates for several seconds. Reaching for one of my snacks introduces several earthquake-like counter-shocks from my stand. I’ll have to fix this when it gets light enough to see what has happened down there.

It’s snowing harder. I break open a couple of the greatest inventions ever – little heat packs that I stuff under my shirt to keep my core above freezing. I do so with some difficulty. I have so many clothes on that I can barely bend my arms. Since I can barely reach one hand with the other, I get my glove off by violently shaking my arm back and forth. Not good. The glove flies off into the night. This, I realize, could be a problem.

It’s only one problem among many. I don’t have any bottles of deer scent to cover up my human smell. I looked at all of the different kinds of this stuff on the store wall and couldn’t make up my mind whether I wanted to smell like a doe, like a buck, like a skunk, like an apple tree, like dirt, etc. I wanted to ask some other guy, but as a spy living amongst them, a guy at that, I knew this would blow my cover. My ignorance would not only reveal me as a foreigner but I would be kicked out of the guy club on top of it all. Real guys know this stuff, don’t have to ask.

I pour some hot coffee at a coffee cup on the floor of the stand. Half of it gets to the cup, half to the floor. Even here I am a fake, because my coffee is one-third milk, one-third sugar, one-third decaf. Again, revealing information like this about me means I will now have to buy groceries at Dean’s in disguise. Not even real coffee. I don’t need the heat packs; the shame of all this fake coffee is sweeping up my neck to my face. I can feel the blush coming.

It feels good. Warm. Encouraged by that warmth, I have the first of the six cookies that I brought out with me, washed down with warm decaf. I have more of both, and leave one cookie for later.

I settle back down, and realize that I cannot move my feet. It is now light enough to see that both feet are frozen down in a brown lake of spilled coffee on the floor of the stand.

This, too, could be a problem.

I yank on them, but the answering five on the Richter scale of earthquakes frightens me, and I cling to the edges of the stand until it quiets down.

I have to pee from all the decaf. I wonder how long I can hold it.

When it warmed up enough that my feet unthawed and I climbed down, I saw that gophers have been building mounds under the stand. No doubt they’re trying to tip me over.

Who knew deer hunting had so many problems?