We’ve all done it-left our places of employment and rushed into the woods for the last hour of light for that “magic hour” of hunting. For some people, their whole season is comprised of several one or two-hour hunts. Let’s face it, we all don’t have the flexibility of a state worker or a self-employed game call maker! For those hard core hunters who work the typical grind, we take every free minute we can squeeze in the woods.
Bob and I headed out for the “magic hour” one evening late in the bow season just prior to the gun season. My buddy Bob is a devoted friend with whom I’ve shared many a hunting adventure. He was affectionately nicknamed “Bobcat Bob” for his woods skills (or lack thereof). I usually handle all the scouting and tree stand placement, and definitely the navigation. It doesn’t matter if it is on foot or by road, old Bobcat has absolutely no sense of direction. Regardless, he loves to hunt and was up for cashing in on some rutting activities this particular afternoon.
It was an overcast early November day, and the half-hour hike to our stands was quiet. Bob was up safely and I went off to my stand. The hour was one of those pins and needles hunts where you know you are in a honey spot and you expect a deer to pass any second. None did, and the short trip was fruitless. I walked back to Bob’s tree just in time, as he was attempting to climb down unassisted. Did I mention that he isn’t too good with a climbing stand? Well, by the time I climbed up and untangled his safety strap and got him down, nightfall was upon us.
We trudged back toward the truck, ready to call it a day. In the dark everything looked different. We had both hunted these woods in Connecticut for years, and on many occasions had found these stands before light. We have followed gobbles through these woods before daybreak to get up close for the fly down. Every stone wall and birch tree is a landmark which we refer to when telling stories of our previous hunts. Not this night though. We didn’t recognize any stone walls, birch trees or anything else for that matter. We decided that a compass reading was in order. Thankfully, I keep one in my fanny pack. With all the excitement of the afternoon hunt, however, I had left the fanny pack on the truck seat, wherever that was parked!
This is where all of Bobcat\’s experience afield came in handy. He remembered that moss grows on the side of trees and if we found a tree with moss, we would have our bearing. We found a tree, mostly by feel because we had no flashlight. It too was in the fanny pack. The moss was definitely growing on one side of the tree and I thought our troubles were over. “So Bobcat, what side of the tree does moss grow on?\” I asked. I couldn’t see his face because the woods were dark and foggy and, of course, a drizzle had begun, but I heared a weak, “I thought you knew,” come from his hazy silhouette.
We trudged on, fighting the urge to correct our direction of travel as to not walk in circles. We found ourselves in a swamp that we had never seen before, and, about an hour beyond, when we were soaked in the now steady rain, found relief on a hillside under a heavy canopy of pines. “Well Bobcat, this looks like a good place to settle in for the night,” I said. We decided that we would do better finding our way out in the morning light. Bobcat then added, “Sounds good to me, although I have to tell you something. I can’t sleep unless I drape one leg over someone.”
Forty-five minutes later we hit a road a mile and a half from the truck.