There must be something wrong with me. I mean, in addition to the usual.
Maybe my hearing is worse than I thought. Maybe I’m debilitatingly nearsighted. Or maybe my brain synapses just fire out of sync. Whatever it is, I’m starting to feel like an outsider, an outlier, even an outcast. Because what I hear, see, and feel when hunting doesn’t match what’s on TV and social media videos.
So… help me out here. I need affirmation. Do you, too, NOT hear heavy metal rock music playing in the whitetail woods? For half a century I’ve been listening in grasslands, pinelands, hardwood forests, cornfields, meadows, and snowy woods and — nothing. No electric guitars. No Highway To Hell, no Frankenstein, No Megadeath. No Metallica. Not so much as a single riff. Yet in video after hunting video I see whitetail bucks step from the trees accompanied by screaming guitars and pounding drums. But I never hear this, never feel it. I never even think of heavy metal or hard rock music in conjunction with deer hunting.
What is wrong with me?
And my vision! Goodness, I’ll watch and look and stare and maybe see the flick of an ear, the flash of an antler, the cautious poke of a black nose from behind an oak trunk. Sometimes, especially in mid-November, a buck will come fully into the open, spectacular in his bulk and power, cervid masculinity in full. Alive and pulsing with primal energy. Yet even the biggest of these bruisers fails to measure up to the hard rock bucks I’ve seen on hunting videos. Those flash on and off, posterize, throw sparks. I’ve seen them turn red, gold and purple. They zoom closer and closer in ground eating jumps even when they’re just standing there, calmly gleaning corn someone had earlier sown across the trail. Some even chew in perfect time with the frantic, driving beat of the music I don’t hear.
Clearly, the guys and gals who film these hunts are having an outdoor experience radically different from the quietly magical one’s I’ve been enjoying.
Take my very first whitetail hunt, for instance. It took place in Nature’s winter wonderland, snow falling on pines. Slowly. Softly. Like a prayer. I swear I remember hearing snowflakes tick on pine needles. Overlaying the primal stillness was a gentle hissing, a peaceful hush of sound, and through this came the muted passing of deer behind branches. Gray ghosts. A flash of flank, withers white with snow. Gliding, not stepping, not walking, but somehow floating through this cathedral of pines. And then gone, a bough bouncing, spilling snow, leaving me shaking.
But no guitars.
Over the years, through the bittersweet spooling of seasons, I’ve heard the woodlands whisper, russet leaves spiraling down to land with a click. I’ve heard the tiny seep seep twittering of foraging kinglets, the happy chick a-dee dee dee of black-capped chickadees, the probing tap tappity tap tap of downy woodpeckers.
My heart has leapt at the crush of hooves on dried leaves, the dull thump of something running. With the sun down and a chill settling in I often hear the maniacal yapping of coyotes, the distant, Halloween hooting of horned owls plotting nocturnal mischief. I welcome the bright, scolding bark of fox squirrels at sunrise, the passing honk of geese, the squeal and woosh of wood ducks flying aerobatics through the trees.
But no crashing cymbals. No pounding drums.
Yes, sometimes my whitetails are noisy in their quiet way. Fawns bleat softly now and then. Rutting bucks grunt like pigs as they trail eagerly behind coquettish does. Of course there’s always the shocking blast of an alarm snort. I’ve heard those much too often. Better is the rare snort-wheeze of a buck ready to fight. And then my favorite, the brazen, hard rock clash of antlers. To hell with keeping a low profile. Sometimes a buck’s gotta do what a buck’s gotta do. I do hear this. All of it.
But still no Metallica.
Inevitably, late in every season, I hear the cold blooded Arctic whistling down from the north. It sighs a chill warning in bare branches, hisses threats in fir boughs, sends them leaping, thrashing, writhing. They can’t escape. I can. As looming winter roars its power, I shrug deeper into my parka and soon I do hear music. I hear the pop and crackle of the wood fire, the sizzle of venison hitting a hot cast iron pan, the welcoming warmth of my wife’s “Get one?”
And at the dawn, with the storm past and the woods glowing golden white in the low winter sun, I hear the squeak of boots on new snow, the distant battle cries of crows that have caught an owl sneaking home late. Sometimes I hear icy limbs tinkling, freezing trees popping, the promising boom of a distant rifle. And then I hear Christmas. Playing in my head. Silver bells, silent nights, sleigh bells in the snow. Jing jing jing-a-ling, ring ring ring-a-ling songs of promise, celebration, hope, and joy.
But never Megadeath.
What’s wrong with me?
The author sometimes wonders if his hunting experiences are anomalies. He hopes not.