A Message Received

by Kelly James
(Syracuse, NY)

Father Daughter Hunt
Image courtesy of startribune.com

In May of this year, I lost my dad after a four year long battle with cancer.

I lost many things that day, one of them being my hunting buddy that I shared many hours with in the woods, waiting and watching in hopes of seeing deer in the area where we sat in the early morning or late afternoon.

On the day my dad passed, one of the things I told him was that I would wait for him at my spot, one he knew well and if he had the opportunity, to come and visit me.

This past Saturday, I finally got a weekend where I wasn’t working that I could spend in the woods with Boonie, my cousin Jane’s husband.

It was either Boonie, my dad and I or Reggie spending the fall days together sharing the wonders of mother nature.

Some days were good, others not so much but there was always a story to tell or an experience that couldn’t be found anywhere else.

The walk from Boonie’s garage back to my spot was a lonely one, even with Boonie there.

I couldn’t help thinking about the last time I walked this path cleared of brush and grass.

The last weekend of last year the three of us went hunting, I had to pick dad off the ground after he stumbled in the near pitch black conditions just before sunrise.

How we laughed, just another one of those things that happened in the woods that you had to be there to appreciate.

That night when we got home, he had a war wound, a red welt on his nose that he showed mom while we laughed as he told his tale.

After getting settled at my tree, I sat in anticipation as the morning light slowly started to show the woods below me.

It wasn’t long before I saw two deer walking in from my right down the hill from where I sat, a doe and what appeared to be last years fawn.

They lingered below me for a time but then the doe decided to come up the hill in my direction.

My spot is a small landing half way down a hill that allows me to view down the hill and in every direction.

The doe started up the left side of the landing and continued until she was to my immediate left about 20 feet away.

She stopped and looked right at me.

Although I didn’t move, she knew something wasn’t right so she picked up her pace and continued up the hill.

The other deer went in the opposite direction, into a thicket that hid him from view for a short time.

About five minutes later out he came, found mom’s trail and started to follow it.

Up the hill he came until he too stopped to my immediate left where his mother had moments before.

He looked at me and grunted at me, not once but twice.

Looking at him, I could see the buttons between his ears, a buck who’s antlers weren’t long enough to break the skin.

After lingering there for a few more seconds, he continued up the hill but chose a different path than his mother.

He circled around my back and then came along my right side where he proceeded down the hill back into the thicket.

If you know anything about deer, they are skittish and do not hesitate when they smell human scent.

He had to have smelled me at least once with the wind circling the way it was.

If he did, I didn’t seem to concern him at all.

The last time I spoke to my dad, I asked him to visit me, and Saturday I think he did. I also believe he found a way to tell me everything is okay.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that 15 minute exchange, I don’t think I ever will.

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3 thoughts on “A Message Received”

  1. Thank You Kelly, Your story gives me goosebumps and I am sure that your dad will visit you many more times in your life. As I get older, I cherish the memories like you allude to in your story. I hope that I am not too old to create those memories with my daughter.

  2. by: B.R.Y.
    Your father died on may 5th, I’ll always remember that as it is the day before my birthday. Hope ya’ get to hunt with your son more. My oldest son has seem to lost interest, my youngest son doesn’t seem to care, oh-well. But I do have a story on here about my sons’ first buck “Third time lucky, the too Excited Dad” as well as about 7-8 more stories. I am temporarily laid up recovering from hand surgery. I am bored ! Cant wait to read your next story. God Bless !

  3. Spirits in the Forest !
    by: B.R.Y
    Hello my fellow Northeastener, I live just south of you down hear in north central PA right on the border of NY in Athens PA. Goddamn man good story! It gave me chills! My father died when he was deer hunting back in 1990. Every time I go hunting I think of my old man. Sometimes I swear I can feel his spirit with me. I have a story on here “My Father the Hunter“. Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed your story. God bless you and your father! Thanks for posting .


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