Deer hunting so much more than bagging a deer

Jerry Apps
Serenity in the woods on opening day is a trophy for this hunter.

Opening day of the deer gun season in Wisconsin. A sacred day for thousands of hunters who would not think of attending a wedding, a funeral, an anniversary or a birthday party on this day.

I am at my trusty deer stand, at the crack of dawn. Except dawn hasn’t cracked as it is cloudy, dark, and cold. And quiet. So quiet. No bird sound. No wind rustling the tops of the naked oaks. A dusting of snow covers the landscape and the frozen, snow-covered pond that is to my left. I am sitting near a much-used deer trail. It includes fresh tracks, made last night? Promising. Surely a deer will wander by. 

A half hour goes by. Nothing. No squirrels. No bluejays. No crows And no deer. I pour a cup of coffee from my thermos. Inevitably a deer will wander by when I do not have my rifle in hand. That’s when they usually show up. Not this time. Still nothing.

An hour goes by. Nothing. I pour more coffee. And then, strange as it may sound, I begin enjoying the nothingness of the morning. No phone ringing. No radio blaring. No loud talking. I can’t remember when I have experienced such absolute quiet, such complete “nothing happening” time. I sit back and relax. Enjoying the morning. Long ago, I concluded that deer hunting is so much more than bagging a deer. This is one more of those times.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Sometimes nothing can be everything.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to