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From the October 2012 Conservationist

A person hiking a misty mountain trail

Back Trails

Sitting Silently

By Heidi Fuge

When I first started hunting, my dad stressed the need for me to sit very still and quiet. He told me that if a deer came by, I couldn't even blink. So I practiced sitting still and holding my eyes wide open, unblinking, until they ran with tears. Eventually, I realized that I didn't need to practice an unblinking stare; how could I possibly shoot with tears streaming down my face? However, with practice, sitting still became easy for me. For this I was rewarded in a variety of wonderful ways.

A squirrel on a rock

Once, while sitting on a log at the edge of a field, I felt a strange movement at my feet. Daring not to move a muscle, I glanced down without moving my head. There, I noticed a little brown mouse chewing on the edge of my leather boot. Since I could be seen from the field, I knew that I shouldn't move. But I wasn't pleased to have a mouse chewing on me. So, V E R Y slowly, I raised my foot and shook him off. He was, however, a persistent little fellow and kept coming back. I wouldn't have minded much, except that I kept picturing him tiring of chewing on my boot and deciding to run up my leg. I just KNEW that at the same moment he ran up my leg, a huge buck would appear in the field and I would have to decide whether to jump up and shake off the mouse, who by then would probably be chewing on my face, or shoot the buck.

Deciding that movement now was better than movement later, I raised my foot and gave it a very hard flick. I managed to send the little mouse flying into a patch of leaves. He sat up, considered his situation, and decided (thank heavens!) that my boot was just not worth it, and scampered off. Of course, the monster buck never appeared but I had a good story to tell at the end of the day.

Another time, while comfortably ensconced behind a downed log, I had an encounter with a squirrel. Again there I was, still and unblinking. And there was a little red squirrel, hip-hopping its way down the log, directly toward me. I had the barrel of my gun resting on the log and the squirrel found that to be an interesting perch. Have you ever tried sighting down your gun with a squirrel perched on it? It's nearly impossible. And I couldn't move because I know red squirrels; once you disturb them, they let the WHOLE WOODS know exactly where you are and you don't have a moment's peace after that. Again the quandary: what was I going to do when that monster buck came charging by? Should I try and get rid of the squirrel now and live with the chattering that would ensue, or should I just sit there and hope that he would go away before the buck arrived? Decisions, decisions.

Then, the squirrel turned and looked right at me. We were almost nose to nose. I swear I didn't even blink, but the squirrel saw enough to send it off in a screaming frenzy. It tore up the tree next to me and made so much noise, and for so long, that my dad even heard it as he came through the woods to get me. No monster buck that day either. But another good story.

Experiences like these happen to all patient hunters at some time or other; such instances make it easy to sit in the woods for hours on end. There are so many little epics going on around you all the time. If you sit silently, you become part of them.

Adirondack native Heidi Fuge was a prize winner in DEC's Great Stories from the Great Outdoors contest in December 2010.