by Caleb Reeder
Greenville Technical College
The 2019 South Carolina Wildlife Outdoor Writing Contesttop five entries have been selected and are featured right here on SouthCarolinaWild.org! The top five student writers include: Kassie Burkett, Madison Greer, Gracie Howard, Caleb Reed and Emily Thigpen.
“I hunt, but I’m not a hunter,” I’ll jest to my family and friends. This is truer than I thought, now that, again, I’m walking back from a hunt with nothing but the Remington .270 I carried in. Likewise, I retrace my footsteps from two hours earlier. Today was not a success. I now must face my little brothers who, as always, look through the living-room window in bright anticipation that today might be different. When I began this morning, fresh from a cup of coffee, I was optimistic. “Maybe today” is the reoccurring thought. I usually don’t begin with a different method than before, so I have no warrant to think this.
Those turkeys must have known I had no tags for them, because they walked directly in front of my sights!
The pine-saplings were the first to greet me. An acre’s worth of pine, working as a key-hole to the rest of the long and narrow property. I walked through with the fragrant needles brushing drops of the cold morning dew on my face, while I also looked down to admire the deer tracks. Consequently, in contrast, as I imagined coming home with a sixteen-point buck swung over my shoulder, a spider’s web encountered my path and went directly into my face. This was the only time in my hunt that I put aside every purpose of minding my actions, because then I laid my rifle against a shrub, and used both hands to peel every trace of that sticky-fiber out of my eyes, out of my mouth, and anywhere else it lingered. I then picked up my gun and checked the scrapings: bent-over pines with frayed bark and a slices of yellow running down the narrow trunks.
The oaks greeted me next. I left the pine-gathering and continued up the hill where the pine and oaks mingle: my hunting spot. The sun began to rise, and its penetrating light cut through the trees and brought visibility to what was a dark forest. I sat where was usual, on a fallen Y-shaped tree. The still-hunt began; it was time to fix myself in an ample position and wait. I sat on the top of a hill with a clear view of all that lay below. No animal was yet visible. I began recalling the flock of turkeys that once approached me from the back of where I sat. Those turkeys must have known I had no tags for them, because they walked directly in front of my sights! This led to me thinking of how long it had been since I saw so many turkeys at once, but my recollection was interrupted by a loud noise of rustling in the thicket ahead of me. I did not let my eyes budge from the spot of excitement; the wait was unbearable. But, to my great disappointment, what startled me was a small grey squirrel, who decided it was time to alert all deer to desert the area. I still wonder if there’s a conspiracy with squirrels and deer. It was at this point of my hunt that I began to feel discouraged.
Amidst the intricate webs, the sweet-smelling pine, the bustling squirrels, and the rhythmical singing of birds come a distinct scene of aromatic, congenial woodland.
As the squirrels continued to chatter and chase each other, zipping from branch-to-branch, the birds began to sing, flying back and forth; and all of this gave life to the forest. I began to hear a consistent noise behind the other hill in front of me. It didn’t sound like a squirrel, because the squirrels are always somewhere else; this sounded like a deer. A deer, however, out of my vision. I fixed my eyes intently on the edge of the other hill’s summit — waiting, if perhaps it was a white-tailed deer. Regrettably, the noise reduced; and as it became quieter and quieter, I felt as if I was a five-year-old who looks up to the balloon that mistakenly slipped out of his hand. Again, I was left with the irritating squirrels — mixed with the pleasant birds.
So, here I am retracing these earlier steps of mine. The sun has fully risen, and its beams now reveal the spiderwebs I am vulnerable to. Though I feel that this forest is dead as a desert, I am realizing that I’m wrong. These woods are full of life: the plants and trees, spiders, squirrels, birds — and deer. Amidst the intricate webs, the sweet-smelling pine, the bustling squirrels, and the rhythmical singing of birds come a distinct scene of aromatic, congenial woodland. I know that this forest has deer, yet their motive for secluding themselves exhibits that they are no “dumb” creatures. This causes me to wonder in amazement. As I continue this walk home, the 104th psalm rings loudly in my ears: “O Lord my God, thou art very great … how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.” I now have an answer to give my little brothers when they ask me all at once, “Did you get anything?” “Yes,” I may reply, “I gained by what I learned.”
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.