So there we were. Opening day, at our new camp, enjoying what we can of the solar energy we have stored in our battery bank. We spent some time watching PBS cooking shows, eating lunch, and preparing for the evening hunt. I was absolutely certain he was going to see another legal buck, shoot it and be done for the season, while I come back from the blind having watched blue jays, chickadees, and probably the biggest jack rabbit I have ever seen for the billionth time in one day.
The time comes and we make our way to our respective hunting locations and settle in. For those of our readers that are not hunters, typically we get to our hunting spots about 2-1/2 to 3 hours before dark at the latest. This allows any movement we’ve made to settle down in the woods and for animals to get comfortable again, and return to their normal routines.
We continue to hear the occasional gun fire off in the distance through the afternoon. We will often text each other, usually me asking him which direction a shot we heard came from and approximately how far away. His decades and countless hours of hunting makes him far more of an expert at that stuff than I am. We’ll also text if we’ve seen deer, grouse, or other wildlife that is noteworthy. It’s a way to break up the monotony. Let’s be honest, waiting in any capacity can be pretty daunting and boring. So now, we’re doing it on purpose for hours in hopes for the few minute opportunity to harvest an animal for food!
I am starting to notice that dark is settling in the woods. The snow is turning a blueish color, the pines aren’t so easy to see through, and the animal movement is winding down. I am sitting in my blind, the heater is off, and the windows are open. At this point, I know I have minimal time left before I can call it a day. Not only because it’s getting dark, but because I can head back to the heat of the cabin.
I was looking to my left when I noticed a quick movement out of the corner of my right eye. Having slumped a bit in my chair, I quickly lean up to see what it is. I am locked eye to eye with a bobcat. She is stopped right in her tracks on the trail in front of me, looking back at me. Neither of us move. My mind is racing. I’m barely breathing. “What do I do?” My hands are on my gun, but my arms feel like lead weights. I can’t move or I’ll scare her away. I race through a thousand thoughts in the flash of a milli-second. “What are hunting regulation? What do I do? I’m staring at a Bobcat” I slowly reach into my pocket and pull out my phone. I slowly raise my phone. She still doesn’t move. She gives me enough time to call up my camera, take a picture, zoom in and take a second, I am able to just wait and stare for what feels like at least a few more minutes. She crouches to run away and I get a third picture. My heart is beating out of my chest. The pressure can be felt in my eyes and ears and my skin is tingling from the rush. We’ve seen her on the trail cam once.
I send him the pictures. He replies “How Cool”.
Once we get back to camp, I retell of my encounter. I can assure you the weight of this has not even begun to sink in. I’m thinking that it was a cool experience, but certainly not how rare of an experience it actually was. The following day I measure in steps how far away she stood. 12 ft!!!! I was 12ft away from, and staring down a bobcat. It wasn’t until after the weekend was over and we were home that the weight of the encounter was starting to become real. How many hours our uncles, fathers, cousins, brothers, friends have spent in the woods and how few stories there are of anyone seeing a bobcat that close. It wasn’t until he told me he would give up his buck from the morning hunt, his 101st deer, in exchange for that type of encounter, that it became a story for my lifetime
What defines a successful opening day? What defines a successful hunting season? I believe some would answer without hesitation that it would be a successful harvest of the game you pursue. Others just thankful to have a day in the woods. This particular day in 2018, 32 days after purchasing this land, I had the chance of a lifetime. A succesful opening day like no other. My eyes were not otherwise occupied, I wasn’t busy with a task or chore. I was waiting. I was waiting and praying for God to allow me to see “Anything, just something to talk about”. Prayer answered. 3 hours given for 3 minutes that will last my lifetime. That was success!
I am continuously reminded that success is measured in so many different ways. Our opening day, and entire hunting season was a complete win. We were together. We were at the starting line of living a dream we’ve both had for our entire lives. The dream of owning a cabin and a piece of the world we could call our own. He fed us and our families with “Righty“. I came home with the story I prayed for, and I named her Diva.