The Prairie Doe

I looked out over a remnant of wild grass surrounded by groomed farmland. The air was still. The evening sky was cloaked with the threat of winter. Thin clouds speared across the horizon. It was quiet except for an occasional pickup which rumbled down the distant county highway. I had a tag to fill and this conservation section held promise in my late season hunt.

A large oak, part of a single tree line, shielded my back and the prairie hedged me in on either side. A steep ditch dropped away at my feet and rose up to the sod which was ten feet lower then my perch. I waited. A hawk cruised over the slender stalks and lighted on a branch just above my shoulder. I turned and watched in wonder. It scanned, twitched its head, and was gone. I realized it was hunting too. Fast. Silent. Effortless. Lethal.

Fifty yards to my right, the sound of leaves crunching under light hooves jolted me back to my deer stand. I fought the urge to turn. Gradually, I sifted my gaze. Two does and two yearlings stood motionless. They scanned their feeding grounds for a good five minutes before feeling safe. Eventually the deer proceeded, but on high alert. One doe melted into the cover, the other turned left, followed by the younger, and hugged the ravine which lead toward me.

My heart quickened. It was a tedious process. The trio stopped to nibble several times but steadily drew closer. Within bow range now, directly in front of me I prepared. Gently, slowly, I started to lift my bow, and planned to wait until the animal walked past me for full draw but my slight movement was detected, I was busted. The seasoned Whitetail stomped and snorted, I held. The doe stomped again, I held still, with hope of a second chance. The wily creature walked off and disappeared into the tall cover, snorting several more times as it circled around. I knew the game was over. I finally relaxed and immediately replayed the scenario in my head. I had rushed my first move. Ground hunting is intense and rewarding, but small mistakes often leave me frustrated.

The two yearlings stood there for many minutes and wondered what mama was doing. I was tempted, but did not take a shot. Day slipped away and finally the youngsters disappeared into the shadows.

I plodded back over the hard ground, black against the dark sky. Short broken stalks of corn lay scattered amidst the harvested plot. Illuminated clouds were draped over the faint sun like curtains stretched over a soft flame. The vacant gravel road invited me back home as evening pushed the last faded color into night.