The long dark season has finally ended.

No, I’m not referring to winter, nor the holidays – I find them cheery though I understand many of you do not – nor am I talking about the explosion of extra work.

It is the deer hunting season that has ended. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

I hear your cheers – wives, daughters, sisters, friends. You are doing the happy dance too. And not because we want to deprive hunters of their favorite sport. To be honest, I enjoy having occasional quiet evenings when I can write, or read or have a glass of wine without the television on and noises blaring around the house.

But I also like to walk in the woods which isn’t possible from September til early January. I like to feed my cat without being shot at. His lot – most of you know the story of why my cat is in the dog lot – borders the woods. About three weeks ago a group of teens gathered at another’s home where he was alone with his dad’s guns. Beer may or may not have been involved. Shooting commenced. Deer began running through the woods behind my house and as I was caught with the cat, its food and bottle of water, I was afraid to move. Teenage boys’ voices yelling, “the deer went that way” prefaced another barrage of gunfire as the deer were running toward me and the shots were following the deer. I yelled expletives bookended with the words ‘people in the forest’ and ‘stop firing’ as my husband leapt out of the house and onto the four wheeler – riding into the gunfire. Our son was hunting a few miles off and had our truck. So I ran for his and took the road around to the home below the forest where we found the party of young boys blissfully unaware that their actions could have been seriously troubling and dangerous. The grandparents got involved with apologies and the removal of firearms. We left, happy to still be alive.

That should be reason enough. But wait, there’s more.

An elk was killed less than a mile from our Virginia property. Several more have been spotted. It was a beautiful 5 x 5 racked mature elk. The fever has hit Bland with every hunter and wannabe hunter salivating for the trophy game. Our fence has been broken and we found a receipt on our property from an ATM at a BB&T n Virginia. One day when I was at the cabin alone, a green SUV drove up to our fence, and sat facing our property for several hours. I grabbed the binoculars and saw the rifle perched in his vehicle as he ‘hunted’ our property. I chose not to confront him since he was armed. I simply decided to call the game warden if he shot across our property. Luckily, nothing came out. But I took pictures from the kitchen window. I know who it was. And the little meadow where he parked was bushogged and trees trimmed to make his parking spot less hard on his vehicle. We also tracked footprints from the gate halfway across our property when snow dotted the fields. This will have to be addressed.

And even beyond trespassing, leaving gates open, and endangering lives, is the mess of it all.

For months I’ve had weapons of the season – bows, muzzle loaders, rifles – littered about the house. Normally they are locked up and not in sight of anyone or anything. Not so during the season. Concerns of humidity, temperature, accidental bumping require the offending firearms to be draped over beds – where doors can be shut and locked in the event of company with small children, but we really don’t have much of that. And enormous green scent protective bags have squatted in the center of rooms with their precious contents of apparel in varying degrees of camouflage, warmth and cover.

Blaze orange hats have been tossed about the sun room or even on the kitchen counters, desk, dining room table. Used hand warmers discarded on tables. Boxes of ammunition and quivers full of arrows gracing the spots between the foliage of my delicate house plants. And little vials of things like ‘doe urine’, ‘fox piss’, ‘buck-n-rut’ disgrace the window sill. Do not – I repeat – do not open such vials. The smell is horrific or at least I think so. I don’t like the spray they use on their clothing much better. They think it smells like dirt. I say, if it smells like dirt, then it’s the dirt in the bottom of a sewage tank.

Outside it isn’t much better. Muddy boots perched on the steps could cause you to trip if you forget to look and just dash out of the house. Even in the garage, my car has stopped my fall as knocked over boots were left laying beneath my line of vision at the bottom of the step.

The chair in front of the fireplace has been the recipient of wet caps and coats left to dry or warm up. Don’t think about sitting there.

Alarm clocks have been blasting away – even on Saturday – disturbing the opportunity for a long nights’ sleep since September. It seems you have to get into the woods and set up at dawn or they’ll see you coming. But don’t they come out at night and early morning? Aren’t they just as likely to see you at 5:30 as they are at 9:30? Just curious about that one.

And there’s the endless barrage of phone calls from people we only hear from during hunting season. What did you see? What have you gotten? Do you know someone who scored something big? Send me a picture! (That translates to have your wife send the picture.) Do you know where I can get some hunting land? Can I hunt your land? Can I bring a few friends when I come to hunt your land?

Will you give me keys to your locked gates? (No joke – have had this requested of us on numerous occasions – even by SUV guy who is already ‘sneak’ hunting our property.) There’s a reason people lock a gate. They don’t want people scaring off the wildlife.

And here’s a tip, if someone is kind enough to give you permission to bring your child over to hunt their land – in the guise of having a real father/son moment – don’t show up with your dad, uncle, brother and six of your closest friends. And don’t further ask if you can use their guns and their ammunition – especially if the firearms are for the extra people who were never given permission to hunt in the first place.

And while I’m ranting, think about how you’re going to remove the game from the forest BEFORE you pull the trigger. Don’t call others during their dinner, saying your back hurts and you need them to come out and do the dirty work for you. You should make arrangements to trade off with other hunters and someone should always know that you are hunting and where you are hunting.

Furthermore, if you aren’t going to eat it – don’t kill it! At least have some respect for the animal whose life has been sacrificed.

Just one more thing – it isn’t once a year. That used to be what I heard all of the time from hunters, “But it only comes once a year!”

No, your birthday comes once a year. Santa Claus comes once a year. Hunting season lasts for months, and if you count the scouting, food plots, tracking, stand moving, shooting lane trim outs, etc.; we can parlay this into a year round event.

Of course, turkey season is only a couple of months away, so I need to enjoy the debris-less house while I can.

Rant over – season over – at least for now! Excuse me, I need a nice long walk in the woods.

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