Only two days remain in the limited deer season in Kitsap County. Deer, either sex, may be taken by bow only. The season will close until next fall. I’ve practiced with my bow a few times, but I’m not sure I’m ready. The one experience walking with my son and his friend, Jeremy, helped. But still, it’s a bit daunting to go alone.
My neighbor saw two large bucks in his yard yesterday and gave me permission to hide out in his woods. I practiced hunting today by waking early and bathing with homemade cedar soap. I hoped the natural cedar scent would blend my people scent with the deer environment. I layered up in long-johns, comfy sweats, and waterproof bottoms. I huffed in the fabric softener clinging to a freshly laundered fleece but opted for a musty camouflaged parka hanging in the garage instead. The parka carried aromatic hints of straw, garden soil, tree sap, field mice, and maybe a little bit of chicken crap – An excellent bouquet to mask human scent.
Masking scent or attracting scent is big business in the world of hunting. Cabella’s reserves a large section for scent-locking garments and gear bags. Shelves are lined with soaps, sprays, and laundry detergents guaranteed to neutralize odors or mask human scent. For as little as $7, I can pick up a lively bottle of skunk spray, or I might select dominate sow or boar urine to spritz behind the ears. Now wouldn’t that make me popular at the New Year’s Eve Block party? Or, if my goal is to attract the gents, I can slather up with a stick of OnQuest VS-1 Whitetail scent, conveniently packaged in what looks exactly like an Old Spice deodorant container. According to the advertisement, the VS-1 stick is the only buck attractant vaginally extracted from does in the peak of estrus. Synthetic hormonal synchronization causes the deer to hyper-ovulate, thus increasing pheromone intensity in urine. No kidding. This is exactly the kind of liquid-trouble a girl like me ought to avoid. Imagine falling asleep in the woods and waking up with a hairy, new boyfriend. It’s tough to explain something like that away.
I tucked in a small stand of Douglas fir and waited for the sun to rise. Actually, the sun doesn’t really rise during the winter in Seabeck, Washington. It just gets a little lighter out. My hearing is poor, or at least that is what the audiologists say. But this morning, my senses were on fire. I heard the slightest rustle of leaves and snaps of twigs. I held my breath as the noise grew louder. I imagined a huffing and snorting twosome of young bucks gobbling their way toward me, stomping down underbrush, and racking trees with majestic antlers. I readied my camera as noise busted over a forested berm and spilled into my neighbor’s front yard. It was a twosome. A twosome of russet-chested chipmunks scampered across the green and up the gnarled trunk of a lichen-flecked peach tree.
The bucks failed to show. I waited in my hiding spot for two hours watching birds and chipmunks, and enjoying the mushroomy fragrance of new morning on the forest floor. I studied patterned whorls in tree bark and argued with myself about how to tell direction by moss growth on trees. Moss grows on the north side of trees, or at least that is what I thought. But does location matter? And how do I explain the circumference of shaggy green fluff carpeting an entire tree trunk?
I left my hiding space and researched moss growth while warming up with Jasper in front of the fire. As it turns out, determining direction according to moss growth is more folklore than fact. Moss flourishes in damp and shady areas, regardless of directional exposure. North facing trees may have limited sunlight and are therefore likely to stay moister than other trees in a stand. But in the dark, damp, forests of the Pacific Northwest, trees are moist on all sides and moss embellishes regardless of direction.
I didn’t see deer today. Except for a limit of clams and a handful of squid, my freezer is almost empty. But I’m tending a garden of knowledge and filling up on sights, smells, sounds, and textures that have always been in my life, but never fully acknowledged or appreciated. I can’t eat knowledge and realizations, but I’m feeding a ravenous soul and recognizing another beneficial facet of my killing spree.