It was about 5:30 in the morning when I left the house. The sun would not be up for at least an hour, which would give me plenty of time to get to my deer stand on my property, and settle in before legal hunting light would arrive. The first thing I realized on that late October morning was that the air was remarkably still. The leaves of the New England forest floor were heavily frosted from the overnight cold, and there was no wind to speak of. Although my tree stand was only 200 yards away, I knew my approach was going to require some forethought. My first step from the grass of my yard to the frozen leaf litter of the woods was about as subtle as jumping into a barrel full of potato chips with both feet during church. With no rustling from the wind to help conceal my movements, there was no way I was going to be effectively sneaking through the woods. So I decided to resort to an old trick I had learned in the past. Being very familiar with these woods and the path I needed to follow; I secured my twenty five pounds of gear, shouldered my compound bow and began jogging through the woods to my destination. Although my unconventional approach was about as stealthy as a runaway dump truck crashing into a nitro-glycerine factory; I was not going to provide the deer in the area with the tell-tale, rhythmic cadence of a walking human, and as loud as this method was, I was not going to be disruptive for nearly as long as if I had tried to be quiet.
The tree stand is a ladder stand; which for those of you who are unfamiliar with hunting, is basically shaped like the capital letter "L" standing on its head, with the short end of the "L" secured about twenty feet up on the side of a tree. The long leg of the "L" is a ladder, and the short leg is a platform with a seat. I stood at the bottom of the stand for several minutes allowing myself to catch my breath, and then quietly climbed the ladder, hauled up my gear, secured my safety harness, and settled in. Finally allowing the woods some quiet.
Within about ten minutes, the woods slowly began to come back to life. I could hear small, unknown, unseen animals rustling through the leaves below, and heard a couple of clucks and cuts of a group of roosted wild turkeys in some hardwood treetops a short distance away. Confident my ass-over-tea kettle assault had worked; I readied my gear and prepared for sunrise. After a few minutes of listening, I heard the crunch of a heavy but seemingly cautious footfall to my left; ten seconds later it was followed by another, then another, another... The cadence was immediately identifiable. "Great", I thought; I had taken the effort, albeit unconventionally, to try to mask my two-legged noises, just to have another hunter walk right up to my tree stand and notify the forest that the "Humans Are In the House!" Curiously, this person was approaching me from the east, the direction of my house. No one else in my family hunts, and if there was an emergency at home, my teenagers know where the tree stand is and would have shouted to get my attention. More than a little bit peeved about potentially having the opening moments of my hunt ruined and also having someone hunting so close to our house without permission; I stood up in my stand, contemplating my impending diatribe.
A very faint glow of colour had started to show as my part of the earth turned towards the sun; but beneath the canopy of the forest, the world remained pitch black. The hunter's approach was slow but seemingly deliberate and I began to think that this person was actually coming to use MY stand. Giving them the benefit of the doubt that they would just continue past me, I kept silent as the footfalls neared. At what I would guess to be approximately fifteen yards away, the hunter stopped. After a few moments, I presumed they must be checking a compass to get their bearings or something; but I saw no flashlight. Still completely surrounded by darkness, I waited for their next move. Five minutes passed and then ten. No sound, no movement. Increasingly agitated, I realized that it was decision time. I decided it was time to alert this bone-head that not only was he/she ruining my hunt on my land, but they were also in close proximity to an angry man with several pointy sticks!
Just as I opened my mouth to shout, I heard the crunching of frozen leaves and the crackling of breaking branches a short distance away from me to my right, in the opposite direction of the hunter. Having spent a large part of my life in the woods, it was obvious to me that this was a large, four-legged animal approaching rapidly; its approach somewhat half-hazard, as if it had been scared... By possibly, yet another hunter? I turned towards the noise and expected the deer to break into view. Just as it neared the break in the brush near my stand, it froze. Although I had the benefit of its approach to pinpoint its location, which now was probably only ten yards away, there was still too much cover between us for me to see the deer in the early morning darkness.
"Well, this is interesting", I thought. The other hunter had to have heard the deer's approach just as clearly as I had. So I did not expect him/her to move. Had the deer stopped because it had smelled or otherwise sensed the humans it had stumbled into? I did not know, but I did know now, as the sun actually broke over the horizon, that it was too close for me not to get a look at it before it departed. The seconds ticked by as the sun slowly made its entrance, illuminating the woods, making unrecognizable shapes into the familiar trees, boulders, and terrain features I knew intimately. I strained in the direction of the deer, sensing it, but not quite hearing it or seeing it; the underbrush too dense to penetrate with my eyes. I caught a faint sliver of what appeared to be white fur through the branches and craned my neck to try and get a better look, but it disappeared as quickly as it appeared. Just as I shifted, the "deer" growled at me... A very low, guttural growl... This my friends was a true WTF moment! THAT is NOT a DEER! My mind quickly began processing what this animal could be...fox?...way too big...coyote?...still too big...bear?...too quick. I pulled an arrow from my quiver and readied my bow.
Seconds felt like hours; knees knocked, bladders weakened, bowels loosened... All I knew was, whatever it was, it was not something I was hunting for, but it knew where I was and was waiting for either its chance to escape or attack. The sun broke its full spherical shape, I have to presume... I did not see it because it was behind me and I was not turning away from the animal lurking somewhere in front of me. As the sun rose, I began to be able to see portions of the forest floor as the light reached it. The woods in front of me took shape, and then colour, as I motionlessly waited. The thicket where the animal stood was now completely visible, I could see every branch, twig, leaf... But I could not see IT. I stood this way for about thirty minutes, straining to see this beast, occasionally glancing over my shoulder to try to make out the hunter and what he/she was doing.
A few minutes later I heard a few leaves rustle and a squirrel hopped into view. Not moving, I tracked it with my eyes as it made its way through the thicket right in front of me, right where the animal was standing, and out the other side. I relaxed a bit, quite confused. There was no way the squirrel would have gone through that thicket with a predator within. As seconds ticked by, I relaxed incrementally. OK... So it is gone, but where and how did it go? I turned in the direction of the hunter, "Hello?" I timidly called out. No response. For a few minutes, I scanned the area thinking maybe he/she can see the animal and was afraid to give away their position. I sat down in my stand hoping to get a better view through the canopy in the direction of the hunter. I could not see anything. I knew the hunter was close enough to hear me call out. I waited, and waited, an hour passed. No hunter emerged, nor did one walk away. There was no hunter. I was beside myself. I have the utmost respect for the cunning and elusiveness of wild animals; and could give the beast the benefit of the doubt on being able to sneak away without being detected... Even though I did not believe it had. But there is no way some clumsy human could have gotten past me or away from me from such a short distance away in those frozen, noisy conditions, without me knowing it.
The next couple hours were a blur. I thankfully did not see any deer that day. My mind was so wrapped around the events that had happened, that I do not think my brain would have been able to direct my body through the motions of making a shot. Still expecting to hear or see someone or something as I began climbing from the stand, I lowered my gear and made the dissent. As my feet touched the ground I noticed a movement almost immediately in front of my face. Stuck in one of the bolt holes of my ladder stand was a large feather... An eagle feather. Someone must have found it and stuck it in my stand as a joke?... And I guess I did not see it earlier when I climbed the ladder in the dark? Knowing this was not the case, and knowing it is illegal for anyone to possess an eagle feather that is not Native American; I left it and walked home.
About ten months later, which was about nine months into my initiation into the field of paranormal investigation, I met a woman who was a clairvoyant. We met through a mutual friend at a get together. I learned later that she is what I call a "Gotcha Psychic". She says things to people that either floor them, or leave them thinking she is a nut job... Not much in between. About an hour after meeting her, I was standing next to her at an appetizer table. Without even looking up from the table or the plate she was preparing, she said to me, "You know it is up to you to take care of her now, right?" When I asked her what she was talking about, she looked me in the eye and said, "The Indian girl that is buried on your property. The wolf cannot protect her from everything; you and your family are her caretakers now." And she walked away.