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The Last Windrow: The view from a winter deer stand

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Some of you might remember the movie "A Room With A View" - a 1980s classic movie that gained many awards. I've never seen that movie, but I have seen "The View From A Deer Stand In January." Not a movie yet, but might be someday.

A deer stand sits huddled in the woods of our hunting land. I've not been out to it, but I can imagine it is wearing a heavy coat of white snow as I write this column. It has long been abandoned by the last deer hunter of 2018.

One of those hunters was my daughter and one was my brother-in-law. They sat in the November breezes and surveyed all that was around them except for a deer that almost came close. After having sat in that stand or a nearby stand since 1975, I know the room over which they surveyed.

That was a time of year before snow covered the blanket of oak and aspen leaves that now shelter the mouse and vole populations. Under the snow they now tunnel back and forth seeking the stored seeds that only they know about. If they are lucky, and many of them aren't, an owl will not detect their faint squeaking under the snow and they will not be speared by a talon.

Weasels and foxes are also experts at detecting the whereabouts of these tiny forest creatures, and they have found ways to harvest a dinner as well.

If you were to sit in that deer stand this time of year, you would not be hearing the sounds of bluebill ducks whistling overhead or the loud semi-truck honks coming from giant tundra swans as they ply their way south to warmer climes.

From the deer stand with a view you would not smell the decaying leaves and pine needles of fall. They are now all covered, and only a cleansing whiteness aroma permeates the swamp in front of the stand.

From the winter deer stand you would notice huge timber wolf tracks that pace the perimeter of the swamp. They have been on the landscape in search of any unwary deer or beaver or anything with meat on its bones.

I often think what would happen if we humans went to the refrigerator every morning in the winter and found it empty. That is what the wolf's morning refrigerator looks like. If the wolf is to eat, it needs to find something every day of the winter. Don't we humans have it easy? I think so.

The deer stand with a view would also see ruffed grouse sitting above it, picking at the remaining catkins from aspen trees. They no longer can rummage around the earth beneath the snow to fill their crops with acorns and wintergreen leaves. They must find food in the treetops or in the thick brush that surrounds the deer stand.

The stand might also witness a ruffed grouse spearing itself beneath the deep snow to both protect itself from any critter that might have an idea of a grouse dinner and to shield itself from 25 below zero temperatures. The grouse has been around these parts much longer than humans and knows how to live to see spring.

The deer stand with a view would also no doubt see a white-tailed deer or two amble beneath it. Although the hunters that sat there during the season saw hardly any, the deer now frequent the well-worn trail in front of the stand. They somehow know that the stand is now vacant and no danger lurks above their heads. A couple of bucks might even come over to scratch their antlers off on the stand at this time of year. The bony antlers will be devoured by forest critters before the snow melts.

And so, the deer stand with a view will remain silent and covered with snow until a warm spring zephyr caresses the northland. There will be stories told beneath and above it. Life and death struggles and successes.

It could be made into a movie. I'd call it "The View From A Deer Stand In January." The movie would no doubt have an audience.

See you next time. Okay?

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