Steve Madewell

Pedestrian Ramblings

Friday Night I went out to the Conneaut Creek Club cabin and spent the evening by myself.

Saturday was the opening day of muzzle loading rifle deer season.

The cabin is a rustic Adirondack style, with propane lights and stove, no running water, a barrel wood burning stove, two wonderful porches and many great memories.

I got out there around 8:30 and it was about 15 degrees with ten inches of snow on the ground and it was lightly snowing.

Tomorrow I was intending to walk up a deer, that is slowly and quietly walk through the woods until I either came up on bedded or feeding deer.

With the particular muzzle-loading rifle that I would be using, this would require getting within 80 yards and with the cover and habitat around the cabin, this more than likely would be something like 15 to forty yards.

In order to pull this off, the big deal is moving extremely slow.  All the old hunting books I used to read when I was a kid called this still-hunting.  I never understood why the authors would use this term and not stick with using “stalking” as the common descriptor.

As I got older and realized what was involved, I began to get it.

To really do this right you are moving through the woods while being as still as you can.

I was taking a Thai Chi class a few years ago when the instructor introduced me to meditative walking.

It is a process where you consciously transfer weight through your body from one leg up through your hips then down to the other as you walk in a slow determined way.

I recognized instantly this was an excellent method of mental training for still-hunting.

That fall I tried it and what I observed was pretty remarkable.

I consider my self to be fairly observant when I am “on my game, in myself, in the moment” or whatever you call it going through the woods.

I have noticed that generally when I am going through the woods, I will occasionally see squirrels out 60 yards or so moving away from me, and song-birds occasional twittering in front of me maybe twenty yards more or less.

When I tried the meditative walking approach, I found that I was often moving through the fall woods with a small mixed flock of chickadees, junco’s and titmice immediately around me and I would seeing squirrels moving in front of me maybe ten to fifteen yards.

So needless to say, this is an excellent method of moving through the forest with hunting intentions.

One other dimension to this approach to moving is the incredible mental focus it takes.   The easy and regular thing to do is revert back to normal “walking” in addition there is an substantial amount of focus required for deer hunting anyway.

 So I was planning on going out alone and walking up a deer.

It had been a long time since I had used the CCC cabin as a personal retreat.  Most outings over the years had been with a number of family or friends, which of course were great in there own right, but being by myself was a little different.

I needed a little solitude to strip away the layers of mental chatter that have been building for the past several months.

I had a great time dealing with the simple challenge of getting a fire going with no kindling, making a pot of tea, getting my muzzle loading stuff together, which is an interesting task unto it own. 

In spite of great technological advances, these guns are still primitive weapons.   To load one, you take an amount of carefully measured gunpowder, pour it down the barrel of the gun, tamp that in place then push a bullet down the barrel and tamp that into place.

At the other end of the barrel, there is a small opening where the a spark will flash from a primer or cap.  Ideally this will happen when the trigger is pulled, igniting the powder causing a contain explosion pushing the bullet out and toward the target.

Before bed I got my muzzle loading stuff out, checked over and loaded into appropriate pockets located on the exterior of my hunting clothing.

In the morning I set off about forty-five minutes before sunrise in the 8 degree morning air.

After a executing a slow circuitous ¾ of a mile route down the valley, through the hemlock thickets, across the oak flats and skirting the grapevine tangles I was back at the cabin for a cup of tea and a bit of lunch.

Snow was still falling off and on but in brief periods it was nearly white out conditions.  After my morning hike I assumed the deer would be lying under the hemlocks and out of the weather.  My challenge would be approaching them in a manner to get close enough to get a clear shot.

My afternoon, mosey began would be on the other side of the cabin.

I immediately saw where deer had been pawing through the snow to get to grass on the dam of the pond and had more than likely bedded up in the hemlocks on the point of a keen ridge overlooking the Conneaut Creek Valley.

This is a great nearly fail safe bedding strategy, if any threat is coming they merely stand up and bound down the 45-60 degree one hundred plus foot descent down in the valley.

So how I approached the hemlock thickets was very important if I expected to get a shot.

I figured that this deer were probably conditioned to watching for people coming from the pond so I decided I would approach them from the edge of the valley ridge as best as I could.

I put up the first two deer in a few minutes.  I had walked to within twenty yards of two lying under the hemlocks, and we saw each other at about the same time and they made their move as I was making mine and no shot was fired.

In a short distance in the same thicket I walked up on another lying behind a log.  The deer jumped up when I was about 15 yards away and started to go over into the valley but the wall was too steep, nearly vertical and instead was force to turn and come straight toward me.

I pulled up, aimed, pulled the trigger, the hammer fell and the percussion cap didn’t ignite.  Evidently moisture from the heavy snow had dampened the cap.

The deer turned within a few feet of me and bounded away.

And out of the day I had gotten everything that I had needed, several hours solitude, emersion in the elements, several hours of meditative walking, and incredible rush of adrenalin in the thrill of the moment. 

There have been reasons why I haven't posted any Pedestrian Ramblings and it hasn't had anything to do with an absence of events happening, inspirations coming etc., it has had more to do with being entirely consumed with existing day to day and not having the space to capture inspirations when they come.

This was a great inspirational moment, reminding me I am still who I am and still able to interact in the many dimsions of the world around me.