Wade Robertson 10.13

Things go wrong in the big woods. Why did that arrow fly off and miss that deer? Oh, my what happened to the fletching? Who knows, did it hit a tree, catch on the bow? Odds are you'll never know. It's just one of those days when things don't work out.

In many cases, hunting and fishing are more about perseverance than filling the freezer. 

Many days have limited action and little success; things don’t always go your way. Mother nature is often harsh and violent, but it’s always honest and without deceit. 

The animals know what is at stake, what the rules are and all play by them. The prize is life or death, feast or famine, but the waters, forests, mountains, deserts and plains are happy, peaceful places though exceedingly alert. It’s only mankind that cheats.

Thinking back, failure is often a large part of the outdoor experience, and many things can go wrong. I just had such a day and thought you might be interested.

Monday, I arose early, had my staple breakfast of peanut butter toast and drove to an area close to home where I hoped to bag a tasty squirrel or two. 

Well, that was the plan, anyway.

I made it to the parking area, grabbed my rifle and some shells and left the jacket in the car. The temperature was in the mid-60s and I wore only a shirt and vest. I did make sure I wore my scent lock hat since it covered my head, neck and ears completely. 

There are mosquitoes out there, lots of them, and during a previous outing, these nasty little blighters feasted on my ears and neck and thoroughly enjoyed biting through my mesh hat. In fact, they drove me out of the woods itching, scratching and covered in lumps. 

Today, I was wearing a heavy, close weaved, canvas-like shirt, as well, so the pesky critters couldn’t bite through it. 

I stopped to take a break and leaned my rifle against a tree, then accidently kicked it, and over it went right on the scope. Great! I should have probably quit at that point and went home, but maybe the rifle hadn’t lost its tack driving accuracy. Just, maybe.

It was still quite dark, a grainy gray view of the world, and I was hurrying up the path when suddenly, I saw something moving toward me only feet away. I slammed on the brakes and found myself face to face with a large skunk.

He saw me and froze at the same instant, then raised his tail in warning. Well, five feet is mighty close, and for a few seconds, we simply stared at each other. Then we each took a step backward. A good sign, I felt.

The skunk’s expression was relaxed and unafraid. His entire attitude seemed to be saying, “Don’t make me do it! You’ll be sorry if you do.”

I took another slow step back and kept retreating. The skunk watched me, then turned and scurried into the weeds to my right. Whew; glad that turned out as it did.

Continuing on, a little more cautiously than before, I reached the little point and sat down. It grew lighter, and after about 20 minutes, I heard a squirrel bark. 

The problem was he was only a few feet behind me. Slowly turning my head, I saw a big gray switching his tail back and forth in agitation at this intruder on his territory. He ran off, I raised the rifle and slipped off the three-position safety. 

About 35 yards out, he paused and I quickly squeezed the trigger, praying the rifle was still zeroed. Nothing happened. Good grief, I had pushed the safety forward, but not quite far enough and it had slipped back instead of forward and wouldn’t fire. 

Really? The squirrel ran off to explore new territory.

A minute later, motion behind me. I turned and was shocked to see a black coyote sniffing a tree 15 feet from me. 

I started to turn, but the coyote saw me instantly and set a world speed record, tearing off through the woods, leaves flying up behind him. It appeared I’d been facing the wrong direction this morning.

A little frustrated, I moved uphill, saw a nice tree to sit against, thought about it, but decided to move a little further forward. Two steps later I spooked a squirrel. Guess I should have sat down.

Onward and upward, through some towering white pines, across an old road to a small patch of hickory. Just before the crest of the hill I sat down. Experience had shown that it was best to wait here and let any squirrels just out of sight on the narrow bench above show themselves. 

Otherwise, it was too easy to spook them.

I had barely settled down when I caught motion and saw a black squirrel briefly before he disappeared to my left. I waited patiently, he or another squirrel would show up sooner or later.

Sure enough, a gray ran up a tree and I raised the rifle and steadied the crosshairs. Bang! The gray ran. A big black ran up a tree at the shot and I aimed carefully and squeezed. 

Pow, off he ran. A third squirrel scurried up a tree jerking his tail and wondering what all the noise was about. Without much hope, I centered the head and fired. He ran off also.

Time to head to the range. Not surprisingly, the rifle was shooting three inches to the left, no wonder I couldn’t hit anything. 

Well, on the bright side, this morning certainly hadn’t been boring.