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An apparition in the deer woods | Outdoors

The regular deer season was coming to its inevitable close. So I had to check out how the guys were doing up at the deer camp … see if they had any deer hanging, or if not, some entertaining stories … food for thought, if not food in the freezer.

The cozy cabin had an intense card game of Euchre rolling through its many hands and conversation is pretty much laconic … one line answers, and snippets of deer hunting talk.

“Got any more hangin’?”

“Nah, not lately."

As the cards are being played, “Kinda cold … windy. What’s trump? Diamonds? Went out this morning. Nothin.’”

And so it goes, a regular rhythm of card playing, and one-liners.

But this time one of the guys said, “Just heard three shots down in the big field. ‘Bout 3:30. Hearts.”

So as the card game continued, I glassed the field and observed a truck with its headlights on pull into the clover field and an orange-vested driver get out with the lights still on. He disappeared into the woods.

After 45 minutes, the truck was still there. Lights still on. And I was starting to wonder. Just about dark.

Two bucks square off at a scrape on Jan. 9, 2023.
Two bucks square off at a scrape on Jan. 9, 2023.

So I said to the guys, “I’m going to wander down and see what’s going on. He should have been done with that deer by now.”

It only takes about five minutes to dress out a deer.

“I’ll just see. Be neighborly.”

One of the guys quipped, “You mean be nosy.”

“Besides, too cold, and almost dark.”

“I’ll just mosey down to the edge of the property and look over on the posted lease and see. Be right back.”

As I came to the edge of the woods, and our line, I saw in the dark a man hunched over a deer, working on it with a knife. But all wrong.

He was up by the head and neck, trying to carve into the chest, through the ribs … or at least that’s how it appeared to me from 100 yards away.

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I was standing in his headlights, I yelled, “Hey, need some help?”

He looked at me and just stared.

“Need some help?” I yelled for the third time.

He still just stared. Knife in hand.

I thought maybe he was hearing impaired.

But just as I was going to walk away, not wanting to go on posted property, he said, in a muffled, barely audible voice, “Yes, come heah.”

So with his invite I quickly walked up and saw he was working on a nice eight-point buck.

“Nice buck. Thought you could use a hand.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” he said. “Been on da phawn to my ‘golfend’ at home and she wants the hot.”

“Oh.”

As I observed, though, the animal’s hide was completely pulled back … innards still intact.

"Mmmmm," I thought to myself. "Peculiar. And with his accent, could be from New Jersey.”

“You here by yourself … Jersey?”

“What? Jesey?” He exclaimed with no “R.” “I’m from Massachusetts.”

He quickly changed the subject, saying, “When I shot ‘dis buck my legs wah shaking, and they still ahh.”

I said, “Do you mind if I help?" as I pulled out my skinning knife.

He had a small folding knife, and said, “My knife’s duhh, and my ahmms don’t wok. This is my fist deah wid a gun.”

“I looked up,” he went on, “thought you was an apparition …a ghost. When I was huntin’ wid a cossbow, I saw blue lights floating in the woods … right where you appeahed. Just at dawk.”

I explained that I hunted on the adjacent property and saw his truck lights on for a long time and wondered if he needed help.

He thanked me over and over, as I quickly dressed out the deer (I’ve done hundreds) and said, “While I am here, I can help you load it in the back of your truck. Then I’m going back to the cabin where I have an open refreshment.”

He said, “Well, I’ve got some beahs … heah.”

So after showing him how we open bottles on the side of a truck, we toasted his kill.

He said, “You wuh like an angel, coming out of the sky … you just appeahed.”

I’ve been called a lot of things … but that was a “fust.”

Oak Duke writes a weekly column appearing Sunday on the Outdoors page.

This article originally appeared on The Evening Tribune: Oak Duke: As deer season closes, an unexplained encounter in the woods