It was 6:30 a.m. and still dark. Grandpa Helmboldt pointed with his flashlight to a big stump and whispered, “You sit right here. You’re on a small hill between two swamps. The deer cross right through here. Be really quiet and alert. I’ll come back and get you at noon, unless I hear you shoot.”

“Grandpa, that’s five and a half hours. “

“I know.” He handed me a small sack. “Here are a few snacks to hold you over until lunch.” He walked away through the woods in the dark.

It was my first ever opening day of firearms deer season. I was 15 and Mom had bought me a brand-new pair of bright red pants and a matching parka.

This was before blaze orange was the law. I had my Dad’s 30-30 rifle.

By 9 a.m I’d eaten my snacks. By 10 a.m. I was disintegrating out of boredom. I leaned my rifle against the stump, got down on my hands and knees, and collected some small sticks and stones.

I broke the sticks into pretend soldiers and stuck them into the ground. The little stones were my cannon balls. “Boom, boom, boom.” Crack, I heard something move to my right, and looked up.

A nice buck was sneaking by. His big black eyes were watching me as if to say, “Idiot.” That’s how I saw my first buck on my first opening day. I was on my hands and knees playing with sticks and stones, my rifle 3 feet away.

When Grandpa came to get me for lunch he asked, “Did you see anything?”

“Nope,” I lied.

The next three years I got lucky. Then I quit hunting. I was disenchanted by how so many people hunt without respect for the animals.

I traded my own rifle for work on my car, and moved to Kalamazoo. I barely understood what was happening to me, but looking back I realize I was entering my maturation period as a poet.

Seven years later I moved to Traverse City. A year later I met my future wife and married into a family of deer hunters. I started hunting again.

These short poems show how much I’d changed. Later I bought a rifle that I still own.

Poet Bard Terry Wooten has been performing and conducting writing workshops in schools for more than 30 years. He is also the creator of Stone Circle, a triple ring of boulders featuring poetry, storytelling and music on his property north of Elk Rapids. Learn more at www.terry-wooten.com.

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