It took a minute for my eyes to adjust after I climbed out of the work truck. As I squat there in the middle of the grassy road I watched the truck’s headlights disappear over the hill, and listened as the sound of the engine faded into the woods.
A quick mental checklist and I’d be off:
Night vision- check. Dart gun- Check. Dart- Check. FLIR- Check. Cell phone- Check. Water- Check. Good to go.
Quietly I scanned the surrounding woods with the FLIR and looked for the all too familiar hot spots of deer.
Nothing. A long walk it is.
I was almost impressed with how little noise I made as I trekked along the old road. Damp ground is nearly silent when stepped on. I was, however, sure I looked ridiculous. I was decked out in all camo with the exception of my feet. Those were placed comfortably in a pair of Crocs.
Aside from being one of the most effective forms of birth control, I’ve discovered Crocs are fantastic for stalking deer. Not only are they comfortable, but they’re much quieter than my hunting boots.
So a long walk is just what I took. And as I walked along in silence I took in all the sights and sounds of the night. It’s often easy to overlook the night as just being…well…dark. But there’s much more to it than that.
With a setting crescent moon behind me, the dim light was just enough for me to make out the curves, bumps, and potholes along the road. To my left, a big lake reflected what was left of the moon on the mirror flat water. Hundreds of fireflies dance around in the tall grass, and off in the distance, several still-burning slash piles lit up the woods like torches.
Like a fire in the fireplace, the crackling of burned wood echoed through the trees and the light from the flames shone softly on the billowing smoke above. I quietly watched in passing as several embers rose up from the pile, and disappeared into the night sky above.
Amongst the chirping of crickets and croaking of bullfrogs, a sudden swoosh followed by a soft patter could be heard in the tree above me. I was immediately met with the faint squeaking of a flying squirrel as he rudely shouted obscenities at me for disturbing him. Though I couldn’t see him, he could obviously see me.
Through the branches of the trees above I could easily make out the stars. In fact, even with the moon barely in the sky, the milky way could be seen arcing its way across the night sky. Suddenly, a Barred Owl in the distance yelled something about “who cooks for you?” and was soon answered by another asking something along the same lines.
Even though it was dark, the woods were alive with sights and sounds. I quickly realized that I’d stopped walking. Unbeknownst to me, I’d taken a moment to apparently soak up the setting around myself. How many times have I overlooked all of this while just riding around in the truck at night?
I looked around for another brief moment, the set about walking again. A FLIR scan ahead showed two deer in the distance, and they weren’t going to dart themselves. It was back to work, but from there on, I never overlooked the sounds and nightlights around me again.