Outdoors: Sights and Sounds from BENEATH a Deer Stand

Steve Gilliland
Special to the Globe

I used to be “that guy,” that when Joyce and I hunted or fished together, would snicker at the book and other entertainment she took to the deer blind or onto the boat.

My logic was simple; we were there to harvest a deer or catch fish, so no other entertainment was necessary! I have since mellowed in my thinking, and a trip down memory lane reminded me of one particular morning deer hunt several years ago that God used to help reshape my attitude.

Naturally, after the driest summer on record, it started to rain when deer hunting and trapping seasons arrived.

It had rained most of Friday night and was still drizzling at the crack of dawn Saturday morning. Ever the macho deer hunter, I still crawled from beneath my electric blanket at zero dark thirty to brave the elements. The problem was that either a lengthy drive or a long walk was required to get to all our stand spots but one, and after the amount of rain we had gotten, walking was the only option.

Again, being the macho deer hunter, I’m not against a bit-of-an early morning walk, but I know each boot would have accumulated five pounds of mud and I’d have been soaked once I arrived.

So, I drove to that one stand where I could park in an old farm yard and walk just behind the buildings to a nice raised stand we built atop an old fuel tank support.

That took care of the mud part, but it was still raining, so instead of setting on top, I crawled beneath it and got comfortable in a camp chair.

The floor of the stand was about two feet above me and not completely water tight, but an occasional drip sure trumped sitting in the rain. We always hear a pair of great horned owls at this old farmstead, and this morning I got to watch and listen to them as they wound down from a night’s hunting, and geared up to snooze the day away.

The first owl sat on a power pole a couple hundred yards in front of me and called to its mate that I could hear but not yet see.

Soon the mate silently flew to the top of a tall cedar so that they were just a stone’s throw away from each other. I had no idea which owl was the male and which was the female, but the calls were very different. Both calls used the same number of syllables, but one call was higher pitched like a woman’s alto tone, and the other was more of a baritone pitch.

After awhile, one owl flew off, then the other and the woods was quiet again except for the slow staccato of the drizzling rain and the “plop” made by the occasional drop dripping through the “roof” onto my vinyl vest.

Then came the blackbirds; probably numbering into the tens of thousands, the flying horde actually made a low, muffled roar like the wind blowing through the trees.

They landed in the wheat some ways away, but like waves in a living sea of black lapping against the shore, the huge swarm was constantly on the move. Birds from one end would fly up and move to a different spot so that the assemblage appeared to crawl slowly across the field like a giant ameba. Once in the air again, the monstrous flock swirled and twirled like a Kansas twister marching across the plains.

In the distance I began again to hear a muffled roar like the wind slowly picking up.

“Was it more blackbirds,” I wondered? No, this time it was a rain shower heading toward me. It was quite a sight as a literal curtain of rain slowly crept across the field.

The drone became louder and louder until it encompassed the deer stand and the occasional drip became a constant stream.

I waited it out and when it had subsided some, I put my hood up and headed for the dry safety of the pickup.

Maybe these sorts of things seem to you like odd topics to write about, but not to me. I know I get so caught up and focused on shooting the deer or catching the fish that I totally miss everything around me.

So, the next time you’re sitting in a deer stand or rocking with the waves on a boat in the lake, concentrate on seeing things you usually miss, then close your eyes for awhile and just listen to nature around you and learn to experience God’s marvelous creation in its entirety. Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!

Steve can be contacted by email at stevenrgilliland@gmail.com