- As I sat there, I thought, “Deer hunting is about sunrises and sunsets, the wildlife that go about their daily routines not knowing you are there. It’s about all the memories you make with family and friends or alone in a barn.”
By Larry Whiteley
The forecast for opening day of the firearms deer season was for rain with a chance of thunderstorms. My son was out of town, and my grandson was at college in Kansas. It wouldn’t be the same without them, so why not just stay home? Wait a minute, this is opening morning I’m talking about. A tradition for goodness sake. How many years in a row have I enjoyed this special day? I had to be out there even if I was going to be by myself. Even if it was raining.
The alarm jarred me from my sleep. I got the coffee pot going, brushed my teeth, did my duty, grabbed my hunting clothes and rifle, filled my thermos, and was out the door. I could see stars in the night sky, so maybe, just maybe, the weatherman was wrong. My truck came to a stop at the metal gate on the gravel road, and I got out to open it. No rain! I drove on down the road, crossed the creek, and pulled up to the old barn sitting majestically in the field.
My plan was to leave the truck there and hike across the field to a tree where my stand waited for me. I got out of the truck, thunder rumbled, and lightning cracked and lit up the dark sky. I was sure thankful I had gone to the bathroom before leaving home. My hair would have stood on end if I had any.
I quickly decided I did not want to walk across a field with the lightning while carrying a rifle to go sit in a metal treestand. Then the sprinkles started, the thunder and lightning continued, and I got back in my truck. As I sat there thinking about what to do, the sky lit up again, and it seemed like heaven opened. I swear I heard the angel chorus singing hallelujah and trumpets bugling. There before me was the answer that would save this day. I would deer hunt from the old barn hayloft. My son, grandson, and granddaughter had all taken deer from the old barn before, and so had I.
I jumped out of the truck, grabbed all my hunting stuff, and ran inside. Then I remembered I had a folding chair I used when hunting in blinds, it was still in the truck, so I ran back out to get it. The rain was getting heavier, but the old barn would keep me dry. It was still dark, so I was in no hurry to climb up in the barn loft. I looked around with wide eyes, and my headlight assured me there were no wild animals in the barn ready to attack me. I also made a mental note not to step in all the groundhog holes in the dirt floor.
The old barn was built over 100 years ago by a gentleman named Christopher Columbus Meadows. I remembered the old black and white picture the owner of this land had shown me of Christopher Columbus holding a horse by the reigns and standing next to the barn.
My headlight shines on, the big stacked rocks and hand hewn beams light up. These are the foundation on which the old barn has stood for over 100 years. I look at the ax marks on the wood, and I see, in my mind’s eye, Christopher chopping and shaping the log to become this foundation. I imagine him in the wooden wagon, pulled by the horse in the picture, going down to the creek to find the flat rocks for the beam to set on.
I look around at all the weathered wood that covers the old barn. There was no electricity in this valley when the barn was built and wouldn’t be for another 30 years or more. So how did they get this wood to build it? How has the wood lasted this long? There is no paint or sealant of any kind on it. Where did they get the old rusted hinges and nails? I will never know the answers.
My mind travels back in time, and I see the horse in the picture standing in a stall. I see corn stalks stacked in another area. Maybe this was where they milked the old cow. Is that daylight coming through the cracks? It sounds like the storm has let up. I better get up in the loft.
I climb the stairs that are just as sturdy as they were when they were built but step carefully around rotted boards on the loft floor. I set up in the big opening where they once brought hay up from below to be stored in the barn loft. My chair is comfortable. I pour a cup of coffee and stretch out my legs. This is a great way to hunt deer, even if it’s not raining.
I look around the old loft, still amazed at how they built the old barn this big and how it has stood this long. The owner tells me it’s home to barn swallows, field rats, mice, a pair of black vultures that come here to raise babies every year, and the groundhogs who made all the holes, these will probably be the biggest reason the barn comes down someday.
The rain stops. Through my binoculars, I see a buck by himself – he has a weird set of antlers. On the left, it is normal but only three points. On the right, it is short with two points and ugly. He slowly saunters across the field with his head down. I figure all the bucks have teased him about his weird rack, and the females don’t want anything to do with this ugly buck.
I think for a moment about putting him out of his misery and click off the safety. But then I think maybe next year when he grows back a new set of antlers, they will be prominent and handsome. Then the ladies will be attracted to him, and the bucks that made fun of him will regret it when he kicks their butt. I click on my safety.
Rain starts again. He will be the only deer I see this day, but that’s okay. I don’t know why we have to get older to realize that deer hunting is not just about getting a big buck you can put out on social media to brag about. Deer hunting is about sunrises and sunsets, the wildlife that go about their daily routines, not knowing you are there. It’s about all the memories you make with family and friends or alone in a barn.
This day will be added to my storehouse of memories. Before I get too old, and as long as it remains standing, I would like to have a few more days of deer hunting from the hayloft of the old barn.