I have an obsession with old deer stands. Whenever I come across one, I daydream about hunters who once sat in them and the hunting experiences they had.
The old-timer on his last hunt comes to mind, nodding off in the early morning hours. I imagine the youngster on his first hunt, trying so hard to sit still, beaming with excitement, with eyes wide open! And then there is the teenager, restless and bored, carving his name in the weathered wood, and the peaceful woman hunter immersed in the quiet time that she so hungers for.
Sometimes, I imagine a heart-pounding hunt when a once-in-a-lifetime buck steps out of the woods in pursuit of a doe. And I thrill to the delight a hunter feels after making a perfect shot, and the unimaginable heartache from a miss. I picture a hot, steamy hunt in the early season when battling mosquitoes make a hunter curse angrily, and a frigid, teeth-chattering late-season hunt that makes hunters wonder why they are there. And I imagine a frustrated hunter dropping their gun from the stand, their face twisted with disgust.
I wonder what life-changing event may have happened in that stand. Did the beauty of God’s creation draw a hunter to become a conservationist? Would those quiet hours of reflection alone in the woods make them a better person?
Did some event strike a profound fear into an unsuspecting hunter? The woods have a way of doing that sometimes. Maybe a hunter heard an unfamiliar, blood-curdling sound in the darkness, or realized they were sharing the stand with an uninvited creature. Perhaps narrowly avoiding a fall struck a chord with a burly hunter who realized full well that there was no one nearby to help. Perhaps such a close call brought home that, now and again, everyone needs help.
How did those four walls, whether made of old wood or tattered cloth, provide such a perfect sanctuary for hunters who climbed inside, full of hope and excitement for what was to come? And, for almost all hunters, with the kill comes humility, a deep appreciation both for the animal they took and for the many “sits” that were unproductive. These are merely parts of the hunting experience.
Now, the old, time-worn deer stand is forgotten, entwined with branches and shrubbery, and hardly noticeable to most people. Many observers might think it looks useless, but not me—I’m sure it holds so much history. It may already be leaning from years of wind and storms, and it is only a matter of time before this neglected, run-down stand will be replaced by one that hardly resembles the original one. Every old stand is unique, like fingerprints from the hands that built them. I feel sad every time I see a new prefabricated stand that has taken the place of one that stood so dutifully for such a long time.
Yes, my imagination goes wild when I think about the old deer stands that may have stood for generations, and I wonder if these thoughts are a reflection of my own time spent hunting deer. After all, I do an awful lot of thinking in the woods in the sanctuary of my deer stand, and can’t help but reminisce about bygone days when time moved a little more slowly and old things were appreciated a little more.