October 1, 2012

Slice of PIE: Deer Hunting, Etc.

Hunting for white-tailed deer with bow and arrow was a bust.

Spending time with my son in the woods at sunset and dawn, boots buried in warm sand or up to my butt in freezing water was priceless.

Plus, I learned something about writing.

Eyesight ain’t everything.

How’s that tie to writing?

I’ve always heard that when I’m writing, I should make sure I touch on every sense. I can’t say that I’ve been consistent with that, but I CAN say I’ve tried.

Madeleine L’Engle, one of my writing role models wrote once (and I cannot find the quote!) that she tried to provide readers with different sensory input on each page, focusing on a smell on one, a sound on another and a taste on the next so that we could better understand what was going on.

Hunting with Josh, gave me new insight into the importance of sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste. Deer are said to be most active at sunrise and sunset, so we tried to reach a standing blind to settle into place before the appropriate day phase. The first morning, we missed rue to also missing a turn off, so we spent the after-sunrise time scouting out blinds.

The evening saw us hunkered down in tall grass, only talking in whispers when a truck on the highway rattled the silence of our little bluff valley. We soon realized that seeking the deer would be nearly impossible – at least in order to get ready to shoot it. The only option then was sound.

Unless you’ve tried to listen for a deer walking in the woods or through a nearby stream, you can only barely imagine how acute your sense of hearing can be. City life, with its endless white noise of sound, rarely allows you to focus on small sounds.

Hunting demands it.

Disappointingly, we heard absolutely nothing but a murder of crows, songbirds and at one point, an irate squirrel who had discovered our hiding place. We returned to our campsite empty-handed.

The next morning found us in a different blind – with just as much luck. As sunrise loomed over a nearby bluff and we’d not heard a single footstep, leaf crunch, or stick snap – thought lots of leaves falling through the thinning upper story, the deer were missing.

A whispered discussion left us with two conclusions: despite our liberal use of online formulas for Human de-scenting, we still STANK to the deer. The other possibility was that the herd had moved on.

The first was a revelation for writing the senses. Eyesight ain’t everything. With white-tailed deer, SMELL is everything; waiting in a dimly lit wood, SOUND is everything; when we arrive after sunrise in peak color southern Minnesota, SIGHT is everything; sitting on warm, tan silica sand, TOUCH is everything;  and when you make bratwurst hobo dinners with onions, potatoes, and home-grown habanero peppers over a campfire, TASTE is everything.

Should I endeavor, in addition to providing my usual sense descriptions in my writing, add one of the other senses to each page?

Oh – as to writing and the herd moving on, that was clearly a plot development...

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