Darkness enveloped the silent, cold tundra of the Minnesota north woods, including that of the last holdout of the black powder deer hunter. This primitive hunter, armed only with a one-shot musket, had been sitting on his deer stand, swaying in the merciless wind, with bottomless wind-chills, for over 10 hours. He seems ghostly white, covered with snow that swirls up from the white ground, encircling up and round the tree tops. The numbing cold, unforgiving temperature, talks to this last hunter, whose misty eyelids are nearly frozen to his face. "Give it up and go home, where you will be greeted by hot coffee, maybe a brandy, a hot meal, and a welcomed warmth from family and fireplace."
The hunter recalls the beginning of the black powder season. With with a warm sun, the hunter could almost doze in his stand. He watched as grouse walked a nearby limb, pecking for food, blue jays giving away their position with their loud "jay-jay", the friendly chickadee that visited him up close and personal, the "Nut Hatch" walking upside down the tree, red and gray squirrels on the move for food, the fly-overs of the crows, looking for a used "gut pile," or the phantom buck, who appeared out of nowhere, that saw him first. But today, was the last day of the season. And this hunter, who just hours before, was energized, now has a loss of feeling to his extremities. He climbs down off his deer stand for the last time this season, and sinks into the newly fallen snow. The blaze orange that he wears begins to fade in the darkness, as his thumb pulls back the hammer of his silent musket and touches the trigger with him numbing finger. A lone, loud "explosion" is heard over the screaming wind, like a clap of thunder in July, a cloud of white smoke swallows this hunter, followed by an echo. Then silence. It is a sound that is heard each year at this time after sunset, bringing about the close of yet another deer season here in Minnesota. It is the sound of a cap igniting the black powder of the a single shot Thompson Center, scope less, smoke pole. The sound that echoes in the darkness, signaling an end to the deer season. The shot heard on this last night, was to empty the black powder T/C, which a .50 caliber bullet and charge had called home on the bottom of his barrel for countless days.
The snow-covered hunter now heads down the logging trail in the direction of home and trudges over the freshly fallen snow, which was dumped the day before, followed by frigid, screaming, cold temperatures. The roaring, screaming wind, swirls the new snow and covers his tracks almost immediately as he makes his way homeward. He stops momentarily to rest, to catch his breath, but knows that he must keep bending his knees for home. Soon his yard light appears through the swaying tree tops, bringing the realization that he is almost home. He reaches for the door knob of his kitchen door, as his friendly Lab gives out a welcomed bark. As he swings the door open and stands in the doorway like a white giant, the house cat runs for cover. Deer season is officially over.
TONY WENZEL is a resident of Randall.