Looking Back

This blog features poems by a native New Englander and octogenarian, as he looks back on the stomping grounds of his youth -- Chaffee's Woods, Kent Heights, Beach Pond, Escoheag, Wood River -- and his army days in Europe towards the end of WWII.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Deer Hunt

There was a time once long ago
That I did hunt for deer
I did so with my cut down bow
That once my father owned
‘Twas made of osage orange and
It had glued cow horn nocks
It was a beauty to behold
And drew just eighty pounds.

And then one day, as Dad did shoot
The bow began to split
As so he had to cut it down
Without the cow horn nocks.
It was about five foot six
Just right for me to shoot
But then I had to scrape it down
To pull at fifty pounds.

And then Rhode Island opened up
A season just for deer
This was the first since early days
But only bows allowed.
My cut-down bow was all I had
So it would have to do
I gathered my bow hunting gear
And waited for the day.

Though I preferred to hunt alone
I almost never did
This time I took along with me
Milt Dennis and Steve Mairs
And on this season’s opener
We though that we should hunt
Around the place we often fished
In back of Breakheart Pond.

The hunt began at six o’clock
The sun was hardly up
The ice was thick upon the pond
The snow was one foot deep
It was so cold, our hands so stiff
We could not shoot our bows
And as we went our separate ways
We knew we could not hunt.

The fact that cold would not permit
Our hunting normally
Did not prevent our moving ‘round
The pond to find some tracks
For every step in this cold snow
Was made so noisily
We knew the best that we could do
Was find the tracks we sought.

I moved around the eastern side
While Milt and Steve went west
They came upon a six-point buck
Just laying in the snow
He’d been dead for quite a while
Hit by some poacher’s shot
They knew this hunting day was done
The snow did crunch too much

They also knew I’d be there soon
And thought they’d play a prank
They propped that buck against a tree
And standing he looked real
They didn’t have time to brush the snow
Stuck to his hairy hide
They hid themselves and lay so still
They nearly froze to death.

I slowly came around the pond
Then couldn’t believe my eyes
For standing not too far from me
I saw a great big buck.
He made no move to get away
Which made me wonder why.
‘Twas then I heard two great big whoops
And knew it was a hoax.

The buck was then reported to
The nearest officer
Who happened to be “Fish and Game”
And cussed the poachers out
They were about to bring him out
But then they thought again
If they left him right where he was
He’d feed some other game.

And so we thought we’d had enough
Our hunting day was through
The snow was crunchy under foot
The cold we could not bear.
And so we put away our bows
Then climbed into the car
To try to get our bodies warmed
Before we headed home.

The next time that I went to hunt
I went out all alone
I had been down to Westerly
To help a client there
And because I’d pass right by
The hunting area
I brought my hunting bow with me
And also hunting clothes

I had about four hours left
Before the sun went down
And so I parked at Breakheart’s bridge
And put on my old clothes.
I started down along the stream,
Where often I had fished,
In snow about six inches deep
But this time with no crunch.

I now moved slowly thru the snow
An arrow on the bow
And watched the snow for any tracks
Made freshly by a deer.
I'd moved about a quarter mile
So slowly step by step
‘Twas then I found this great big set
Of tracks among the trees.

This deer I knew had gone my way
And so I followed it
For just a while, the tracks then turned
And went the other way.
I looked back at the way I’d come
But nothing could I see
And so went back just off my tracks
Just following this deer.

The deer was wise to all I did
For he’d been watching me
As I went back the way I came
He’d move the other way
It now was like a game to him
For as I went one way
He’d go the other ‘til we passed
And then he’d turn again.

Four times this deer did pass me by
Until I spotted him.
All I could see was head and ears
No antlers could I see.
The distance was some thirty feet
I felt I could not miss
He was behind snow-covered brush
And I was in the clear.

I drew my bow, the arrow flew
Right where I wanted it.
But he had stood sideways to me
And not the way I thought
Thus did my arrow miss its chest
Just plowed into the snow
Whether doe, or antler-less buck
That deer went bounding off.

But now I knew where I could find
The deer at any time
And we could track them through the snow
Wherever they would go.
And so the next day we could hunt
Was on a Saturday
Then Milt and I were right on hand
As dawn began to show.

It was not cold as it had been
The first day we went out
And so we started down the way
That ran past Breakheart Brook.
We reached the swamp that was below
The water all was ice
Which then permitted us to walk
With very little noise.

But now my friend in eagerness
Just went way out ahead
I wanted him to stay in close
I knew he could not shoot
With rifle, shotgun or his bow
Could never hit a thing.
But off he went out in the swamp
And I was left to stew.

But then he jumped another deer,
Perhaps the one I tracked,
And though he shot his arrow wide
That deer did skid and turn
Then headed back quite close to me
And she was loping fast
But as I shot, I knew I’d missed
The arrow flying past.

We watched her go with leaping bounds
Up into the thick pines
That grew along the steeper slopes
That marked the Breakheart Brook.
So we continued with our hunt
And came across more tracks
But did not see another deer
And so called it a day.

We had another Saturday
Before the season closed
This time I went out with a friend
Who stayed in his wheelchair
He’d been injured in the war
And could no longer stand
And so he drove me to the spot
Where I did wish to hunt.

This time we went to Escoheag
And down the Pratt Place road
We were not far from Stepstone Falls
When I first saw the deer
She crossed the road ahead of us
And went into the woods
It was a doe, but big and fat
She’d been around a while.

I had my friend continue on
Then turn and head on back.
And when he’d nearly reached the top
I had him let me out.
He’d pick me up in just one hour
He’d wait at Parris Brook
I quickly slipped into the woods
And started my approach.

The doe had crossed ahead of us
About a quarter mile
She did not seem concerned at all
Just ambled right across.
And so I slowly started down
As softly as I could
And figured at the rate I went
It would be half an hour.

The time went by, I’d stop to watch
And then continue on
I must have been close to the spot
Where she had crossed the road.
And there she was, I saw her move
But she had seen me too
She stood and watched me from between
The forks of an old ash.

The wind was in my favor and
The deer was never sure
She’d seen a man or something else
And so I stood stock still.
She sniffed the air, then stomped a bit
And moved her ears about.
I wondered how I’d get a shot
With her behind the tree.

I watched her as she sniffed again
Then slowly raised my bow.
The movement did not frighten her
And so I took a chance
I drew the string back to my chin
And let the arrow fly
It struck the tree, just ‘neath her throat
I’d missed a shot again.

Now when the arrow hit the tree
That deer just bolted off
I gave no thought to where she went
She had just disappeared.
And so I walked up to the tree
To pull my arrow out.
But the head was in so deep
I had to break the shaft.

I heard my buddy drive on past
Close to the road I stood.
And so I met him coming back
Then stowed away my gear
I told him all that I had done
Showed him the arrow too
We would not hunt again this year,
Our shooting days were through.

I later learned that in the state
Only one spike horn was shot
And so I did not feel too bad
At best I’d seen three deer
And got a shot at every one
A feat not done by most
‘Twas then that I was transferred north
To draw a bow no more.

No comments:

Post a Comment