As I moved my head ever so slowly to get a look on the other side of the large oak tree,
my ears picked up that familiar crunch, crunch, crunch . . . My heart began to speed up in my throat and I began scanning the hillside to my left.
An experienced hunter, I was looking for anything that was out of place. Your instinctive reaction is to look for anything moving. Over the years I have refined my search to look for horizontal lines among the fifty foot vertical white oaks and the three to five foot saplings. Straining my eyes further I began to look for individual parts a white patch from the nose or rear, an antler, a lone black eye staring back at me. Nothing. Could it have been another squirrel? It sure sounded like a bigger animal as I repeat my search pattern.
In the meantime the wind has begun to pickup and the sky is becoming dark. Sunset isnít going to happen for another 45 minutes to an hour but the woods are being cloaked in an eerie, windy, darkness. I look to the west and a storm cloud curls its fist at me and begins moving in my direction.
The crunching is beginning to come in a pattern now, intermediately then faster. Faster! It sounds like something is coming after me and I cautiously throw my head around making a complete 360 degree assessment of the situation. Nothing.
Where I am standing visibility is about 60 to 70 yards into the large menacing trees. They are beginning to sway back and forth with the increase of the wind. The oaks groan with each labored movement. Are they coming for me?
The storm cloud has closed the distance from the west like a sprinter in the home stretch.
Itís getting darker and the first spit from the frothing storm begins to fall. I begin to question the sanity of why the heck I am still out here and steal a quick peak at my watch. 40 minutes until sunset and each minute takes on an eternity. My eyes begin a right to left scan as I begin to think my life might be in danger here if I get caught in an severe thunderstorm, windstorm or worse a tornado.
The wind has picked up to 30 mph gusts and these 100 year old trees feel its wrath and protest profusely with their loud creaking and branch shedding.
I once again look up on the ridge to my left and out of the darkness emerges a familiar shape. Its nose is to the ground and its head is the only thing visible at this point. It takes another step looks to itís left raising itís nose into the roaring wind and then looks directly at me. The animal is a good 65 to 70 yards and above me by about 10 feet on the ridge. It turns and looks over its back to make sure nothing is following it. While the animal has its back turned I immediately shoulder my gun.
My hands shake slightly as I still get this effect whenever I am hunting deer. I study the animal and it is a beautiful creature, a soft tan that blends in beautifully with the fallen oak leaves. White from the underside is just visible and two small antlers extending from just beyond the ears. It looks to weigh maybe a little over one hundred lbs and a first year animal. Not overly intelligent in the way of deer hunting season yet.
The unalarmed creature turns its head around and sniffs the ground one more time. This precious gift from our Lord then does a half circle and layís down, with itís back to me.
Crack goes the storm and the woods lights up with a bolt of lighting. I still have my gun raised and the debate rages in my head. You could step out from your cover, and take this animal and the season would be over. You would have the venison in your freezer feeding your family over the winter and it would be another successful season. Not to mention bragging rights of ďI bagged another deerĒ which is not the easiest thing to do every year.
I lower my weapon. The youngster has bedded down to ride the storm out and it clearly is the smart one out here. Another crack from the angry, storm and the rain begins to fall in buckets.
Picking up my back pack it is time to evacuate and begin the mile and half hike back to the truck. I move at a quick pace and the deer never moves; it just watches me as I melt into the forest.
Once out of the site of the animal I begin a slow jog thru the woods. My heart is racing not only from my quick movements but also my anxiety over the lighting strikes occurring all around. Could this be my time to go and not the quarry I pursued? I still have to cross about 75 yards of open ground.
I am actually a little scared right now. Are you ready to die? Would you die right this minute if you knew you were going to go to heaven?
Think about that. If you knew you were going right to heaven would you have the courage to say I am willing to die right now. ďSaint Peter Iíve been waiting for this all my lifeĒ ďMay I come in.Ē
We never know when death will be calling.
Fortunately for all of us, God is loving, forgiving, merciful and kind and it is never too late to seek redemption.
The point to all these being you never know when you will be called upon by our Lord.
Whether your death is accidental or thru terminal illness, it will come without planning, without notice and without comfort. Try as best you can to have your things in order. And what I mean about that is your soul. Donít put off going to confession, or attending a bible study. Make church a regular part of your routine. Pray every day. God does hear you and will ease your heart and your anxieties if you just ask. Live life to the fullest, but under the laws God has set for us.
I obviously did not die that day this past fall. No, I lived and I grew deeper in my appreciation of all that God has given me in my human form. I went hunting eights days this fall and saw seven deer. I did not bag an animal. You know, it was a successful year! Thank you my Lord.