High in a tree, bow in hand, I catch sight of movement in the brush. I am certain it's a deer and i ready myself. There is a long pause within the woods that I find quite odd. No squirrels rustling among the leaves. No birds chirping gleefully as they flit from one tree to another. Was there a breeze before? There is no breeze now if there ever was one to begin with.
The brush rustles again and I catch a glimpse of brown fur. I hold my bow at the ready, waiting to pull back until the deer is in sight. Vaguely recognizing the sound of footsteps, I realize this creature is bipedal. Is someone else here? Is someone else in MY woods? I prepare myself for an immediate kill shot, no matter what or who steps out from those bushes.
As the rattling trees and bushes grows closer to the small open patch I am perched above, he comes into view and I do not understand what I am gazing at. Arrow nocked, I pull back on the string and peer through the peep site, taking aim at the exact location I predict him to walk into view. The instant I see him, my arrow is aimed for his chest. He is broadside to me, so were I to release my arrow I would pierce both lungs and the heart.
Sudden realization of what is before my eyes causes me to lower my bow and release the tension. I have no fear as this mystical legend looks up at me in my position atop a tree in HIS woods. My body is filled with nothing but peace as we lock eyes and silently agree that we are somehow brethren in these woods. An instant later he is out of sight and I climb down my tree to head back to camp. I know that I may not have a friend in these woods, but am certain that I do not have an enemy.
This has been home to his species for thousands of years, and I was lucky enough to be allowed to catch a glimpse of his glory. I have no pictures-I don't need them. When you live alone in the woods you meed a slew of fanciful creatures. I have only seen him a couple more times since then and every time I give him a nod as he continues to scout his lands, and I leave him to live in his paradise.
With temperatures rapidly dropping, I need to build a fire. Key to survival in the woods during winter is warmth. Whether or not you have a heavy coat and a shelter, it gets frigid rather quickly once the sun hides behind the mountaintops and the nearly bare treetops. I dig in my pocket and pull out my magnesium stick and go to work searching in the dim twilight for adequate kindling.
The flask in my pocket is enough to keep my mind off the cold for just long enough to locate a few handfuls of dry leaves and grasses. Heaping them into a pile, I then take out my buck knife and hack into a small sapling nearby. Teepeeing the now 2 foot logs around my kindling, I close my eyes and hold my head high. The icy breeze gently blows my hair to the left side of my face-the winds are coming from the east. I face west as I vigorously strike my magnesium.
After ten to fifteen strikes, my sparks finally take hold and I carefully blow on my kindling. Suddenly, I have flame. I unthaw my frozen fingers and my chilled ass before setting of to gather enough wood for the night. I can still see the flickering light echoing off of the trees when I hear a slight snap. I freeze more solid than the icicles hanging from the deciduous wasteland before me. Shuffle, shuffle. I don't breathe as I slowly reach my right arm down to the holster on my left hip and draw the .22 caliber berretta that I carried.
Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle goes the leaves and I wonder if this being knows I'm here. I patiently wait for the sound of more movement in the distance. One must be alert at all times in these woods. I hear another scurry of footsteps as I dare to breathe in. Eyes darting, I reholster my pistol and run back toward camp where I'm certain the smoke will deter my foe. There's only one thing in this universe that triggers my flight response. One beast so foul that no man could possibly take on in a close combat brawl and emerge the victor. I have shot down coyotes, bears, and mountain lions, but nothing is quite as fearsome as the skunk.
On the off chance I have the morning off work and child free, I try to spend my time in the woods. I, once upon a time, lived feral in the woods for several years with nothing more than a set of ratty clothes, a hunting knife, and my survival skills. This life was bliss.