I heard him before I saw him. About sixty yards out, he came picking his way through the tall grass at the edge of the woods where I sat my tree stand. I was twenty-five feet up, in a swaying maple tree. The wind was in my face. There was no way he could smell me, and with plenty of brush at intermittent points between him and I, there was no way he could see me either. I waited for him to work his way into range. He strolled about nibbling grass, careless, oblivious to my presence. I took the time to count his tines. A nice four by four, he looked to be a large bodied, mature buck. I willed myself not to freak out. “Just breathe . . . stay calm . . . stop shaking.”
I looked ahead to the place where I wanted to take my shot. Ten yards off to my left there was a clearing. If he continued on the same path, he would cross a downed tree right about where I had placed a scent-bomb filled with “parfum de doe.” I worked my deer telepathy: Step over the tree. Meet Mr. Broadhead. As his head went behind a tree trunk obscuring my movement, I stood, swung around left, and drew my bow. Closer. Closer. Now step over the log. Step over the log.
He didn’t step over the log. Instead, he turned and walked along the log straight toward my tree. Hidden by nearby overhanging limbs, I didn’t see the deer until he was at the base of my tree. He stood, twenty feet beneath me, sniffing the base of the maple.
“Okay, plan B,” I thought. Wait until he walks on. He’ll turn broadside eventually, and I can hit him then. I released my hold on the bow, certain that he would hear my labored breathing and hammering heart. The buck moved on. I turned. When he was fifteen yards away, so did he, and I drew my bow. It was then that my safety harness made contact with my elbow. The device meant to keep me from falling to my death was making it impossible to inflict said fate on the deer below. I turned to see what the hangup was. Gingerly, I began loosening the belt that attached the harness to the tree so I could come to full draw.
The belt snagged.
The deer bolted.
I’ve been in the woods several times since, and I’ve yet to see a deer as nice. I’m confident I’ll take a deer, but I doubt I’ll have another chance to take this deer.
I wonder if that buck realized how close he was to death, hovering as it was, twenty-five feet above his head. One moment he was grazing, enjoying the quiet of deepening dusk, and without realizing it, he wandered into a mortal drama. Life and death just inches apart, and the only thing separating them was a happenstance decision to turn left and walk along the downed tree instead of continuing on over the log.
I wonder if you and I really understand the cosmic conflict in which we’re engaged. Do we grasp the enormity of Peter’s words when he warns “Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.”(1 Peter 5:8 - NLT) Do we have any idea how closely we’re being watched? How near our adversary is to us?
Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.” And while I doubt these unseen forces use tree stands, wear camouflage clothing, and spray themselves with cover scent, they are no less real - and no less deadly. They are intent on destroying you and me.
And they’re far more experienced hunters than I will ever be.