I first heard the last day of deer season referred to as Blasting Day just a day or so ago.
While I’m not too fond of what it implies — the wanton discharge of high-powered rifles — I do like the sound of it, which reminds me of Canada’s Boxing Day. Boxing Day has nothing to do with firearms (normally) or deer hunting but that’s how this mostly inert mass that has congealed between my ears works so we’re stuck with it.
Boxing Day doesn’t make a lot of sense either but I guess that pugilists deserve a special day as much as pedestrians and other obscure religious sects. (Experimental groaner — let us know how it went over).
Believe it or not, there are some hunters who still haven’t bagged a deer by the closing of the last day of deer season. On some occasions, one of those hapless hunters has been me. Whether it be the concerns of raising a family or the many ups and downs of the self-employment roller coaster or just plain curiosity over what’s behind the next ridge, I, like a hyperactive child, have trouble keeping still. Though some may want to make the case that deer hunting is best accomplished with a GPS guided ATV, numerous field tests prove that being quiet and still is the most likely way to harvest a deer.
When I was an avid deer hunter, I fit decidedly in the meat hunter category — you can have the horns. The last day of hunting was always in the antlerless season. My old tree stand was simply a comfortable fork in a large ash tree on the knob where we did most of our years long off the grid experiment. Sundown always brought the cooling air from the world of boulders, moss and gnarled trees on the top of the mountain rushing down the slope. (By the way, preserving meat off of the grid without refrigeration is easier than it sounds. Just spew enough “back to the land “ rhetoric and someone will think that what you’re doing is so cool that they’ll lend you freezer space.)
As the sky darkened, I would bristle at the sound of semi-automatic clips emptying in the distance. Were they actually shooting at a deer or just some movement in the brush? Were they conceding defeat and blowing away a rotten log in frustration? Some of these city hunters can get very emotional and take it personally when they appear to have been outsmarted by a dumb animal, which, in fact, they were.
Though the sun was down and the season officially over, this atmosphere often signaled my last chance for a healthy cache of deer meat. The breeze moving down the slope would rustle the leaves, brush and branches confusing and scattering the deer. Often, during this movement of air, when the scents were probably equally stirred and confusing, a doe would wander into my iron sights. The gun was never anything fancy, usually a break action single shotgun with rifled slug shell.
I always let the deer get close enough that a clean kill is assured. If I can’t get a clean humane kill, I’ll let it go. I’ve never had to follow a blood trail. Of course, the blunt impact of a 12-gauge rifled slug is roughly that of a B&O freight train so the deer isn’t likely to get back up.
Hunters — and I use the term loosely — who employ the latest technology to knock over a deer at 300 yards then use high tech optics to follow the blood trail of the wounded and suffering animal are quite likely, in my opinion, trying to compensate for something.
I’ve established a dialogue with an editor at Field and Stream and we’re trying to find a way to make my work fit that publication’s needs but unless I can quell this attitude, my prospects aren’t all that bright. Anyway, it’s fun to be corresponding with a publisher at 2 Park Ave., N.Y., in addition to the usual publishers in places like Soybean Center, Ohio and East Freezeplug, Minn.
I’ve just been informed that this year, Blasting Day coincides with New Year’s Eve. That’s a little scary. The area rescue squads can probably expect more than the usual incidents of tree stand falls as some hunters try to ease the transition between the two festive events.
I’ve spent many a quiet hour in that ash tree on the knob often with nothing to show for it. However, someone in the position of actually needing the deer meat to help feed his family can certainly benefit psychologically from sitting in a tree all day. Next, I’ll have to check with some of my “connections” — farmers licensed to take deer on a damage permit. But that’s another story.