The segment I was assigned to hike was right in my back yard, basically, in the city where I grew up, and I spent some time two weekends ago hiking the nine-plus-mile stretch in a couple sections, with family members.
I decided to hike it again last weekend, this time all at once, to take a few more notes and get some more accurate readings on distances and landmarks and checkpoints along the way. I'd start at the north end, and nine or ten miles later, hopefully, find my car waiting for me.
I'm kinda getting into this assignment. Had my boots laced, backpack flung upon my back, camera at the ready. Nature...me. Communing. I was good to go.
As I entered the woods, I found a bit of a rhythm in my step and had the right mindset to complete my journey. The day was maybe 20 degrees cooler than the weekend before, but it was a gorgeous, partly sunny day for another hike.
A little more than a mile in, I spotted some fellow hikers ahead of me on the trail. But these hikers were a bit different than me. They were wearing blaze orange jackets, blaze orange knit caps, and had doe tags pinned to their backs.
And while I was carrying a camera...they were carrying shotguns.
I thought about shooting them as I approached from behind, but I figured my memory card and megapixels were no match for their slugs, so I kept my Nikon in its holster.
It was at this time I began to realize that I was in a place I might not want to be. I was, after all, wearing a forest green sweatshirt, ironically enough. And I may not have a big white tail, but even if I do, I'm pretty sure it was adequately covered.
As I walked past the hunters on the trail, I said a quick and quiet, "Hello," and the guy in back responded, but the guy in front stared me down as if I was committing a crime. (and not wearing any blaze orange, I just may have been!)
It's not as if I approached them and shouted, "HEY!! ARE YOU GUYS HUNTING DEER??" (think Flounder in "Animal House.") I don't think I rattled the entire woods and ruined their afternoon.
But as I reached my first checkpoint on the trail...a parking lot connected to Point Beach State Forest...I saw this red metal sign screwed to a post, that wasn't there the weekend before.
I was walking through an early hunting weekend, and wasn't aware of it.
I'm not a hunter, so I don't keep up on the various hunting seasons across the state, but I have respect for hunters and don't want to get in their way. Especially, you know, because they have guns and stuff.
So less than two miles into my hike, it was over for the weekend, and I'll have to give it another try when my life isn't in danger for being mistaken for a big ol' antlerless deer. (I don't have antlers, either.)
After being dropped off at my car, I drove around the trail route, and found those same red signs at nearly every entrance to the trail...except, of course, the entrance on the north end, where I chose to begin my day. Unfortunate.
I may go again this weekend, even if I learn that it's squirrel season, or something.
Because I know I'm bigger than a squirrel.
(Maybe I'll buy a blaze orange zoom lens to attach to my camera to fit in.)
"I'm a deer hunter. I go all the time
with my dad. One thing about deer,
they have very good vision. One thing
about me, I am better at hiding than
they are...at vision."