By Matthew Knoblauch

Now that the New York deer season is officially closed, I would like to sincerely express my wishes to you that it was indeed a good one. Perhaps an unforgettable one.

I hope you had your season filled with the same things that were similar to the autumn of my own, another season that gave a bit of purpose to the months. Past times that now brim with sweet memories of a November rut or a familiar tree stand on the edge of Uncle Ben’s farm. I hope there was time spent afield with people that we might not have much time left with, and for all one knows, perhaps memories of a great buck heard of only in fiction and campfire fairytales.

I hope that you lived a fairytale this fall. One of the ones you might have read about when you were a boy still daydreaming about the times when you’d be able to walk proudly with your own Winchester Model 70. I hope it involved a walk through crisp autumn darkness and beneath a sleepy screech owl in a tree while the ground lay dusted with snow, but only up high in the hills where such a fable is best. The owl should keep business to itself in the hollow of the oak because it knows, too, of a storied buck that roams in the morning light. I hope your spot was as lovely as any, somewhere beyond a ridge with the rolling hills stretched far beyond the fog. Your home may be somewhere down there, tucked away between the trees and farms of a distant valley, and if you look carefully, you’ll be able to see the smoke from your chimney, too. I hope the fog rolled free from the fields and the sun crept over the trees just enough to add a touch of taste to your fairytale as your trophy buck came in from behind a doe. I hope that your shooting was straight and your heart was filled.

I want to think (cause that’s what I do best) that your season was safe beyond measure. I hope your boots cleared over every log that had the potential to be too high and every head-high branch stayed free from your eyes (which I am sure didn’t matter, knowing you obviously had shooting glasses on).

Photo by Matthew Knoblauch

Photo by Matthew Knoblauch

I hope you brought all the right things with you, too. Like the thermos, the one that doesn’t leak, or the one that doesn’t go cold in just an hour. I am sure you forgot the one in the back of the cupboard behind all the others, but I hope you didn’t. I know those pockets of snacks from the kitchen cupboard tasted better than they ever have granted that you remembered them. Or the muffins you grabbed from a plate off the counter before you left in the morning, as long as they weren’t left on the seat of the truck. And I hope your favorite knife was always in your pants’ pocket rather than the ones at home (or the ones in the wash).

I sincerely hope you got out with Grandpa this past season, too, and if you didn’t, I bet you at least thought of him there, and if he wasn’t in the stand with you, I bet you at least put him there. I hope that half a century of deer hunting from someone as respectable as Grandpa rubbed off a little on you, and now you’re a better hunter for it this year.

I hope this year you got better at reading the habits of the deer, maybe from all those years hunting with Grandpa or Uncle Ben. Like learning what the deer are browsing on and understanding where to find them at different times of any given day. Understanding rub lines and scrapes or factoring in wind direction when walking through the woods. Knowing it’s okay to leave your stand and learning the overlooked aspects of being a successful deer hunter. I hope that things came together for you this season if they hadn’t already.

I hope you were greeted with success in more ways than a filled tag on your season. I hope you, again, if you haven’t already, realized that the killing of a buck is a mere part of the equation; a tiny morsel. I’d like to believe that you found other things while prowling the land for deer. I know chickadees have kept me company in my pursuits on a rather quiet day, singing Chicka-dee-dee-dee, Chicka-dee-dee-dee into the chamber of my ear. Or the raven croaking proud from the pines above, letting all the forest hear, and the grouse flushing wild from the hazel beyond the cattail slough. I hope you were brought great wonder and contentment in your season from such simple occurrences as these.

Now that your season is over, I hope you reminisce about the times you had this autumn. I hope the prancing deer through autumn’s quiet fields carry you now beneath the darkest nights as flushing grouse and woodcock do to me in my own darkness. I hope your fairytale wasn’t just a fairytale, and I hope your season was full of lessons and realizations of the more important things about hunting, much of which is not tangible but very much obtainable. I hope you obtained those important things — with the right thermos, an unforgotten knife, and a spot as pleasant as heaven. I hope your season was good.