It took me till 3:30 to commit to working and quit hemming & hawing about an evening hunt. The burden of bills wore heavy and I thought it was the smart choice. Newly devoted, I started making another wreath, but it wasn’t long until my eye wandered, as it does 10,000 times a day, to the window where I see 10,000 imaginary deer. There was a doe. A real one - big and brown against the new white snow. I have a doe permit. After 10,000 times of this scenario playing out you would think I’d be prepared - but you’d be wrong. I grabbed my rifle - slunk out the side door and crouch walked real Elmer Fudd like into the yard. She was just behind the tree line - within range, but there were some young pines in between me and her heart. I then realized I forgot to put all my orange on. I took a moment to scold myself severely and walked back to the house with clenched teeth to get my vest. Through the window I saw her turn left - relaxed and feeding - a perfect opportunity for a rookie tracker to practice her stalk. I scuttled in a squat up the glaringly open yard until I reached the tree line and had some cover. I found her track. I took lots of deep breaths. My eyes scanned. My heart thumped. My bare hands were not cold. Pine boughs springing free of snow look a lot like a white tail flagging. I cringed with every step I took - as loud as glaciers calving. I got away with more than I should’ve - and around a bend - there she was - 30 yards - still feeding - still with a shield of young pines. If she stayed her course I would have a shot in 2 steps. I squatted and raised my gun. The snow creaked under my boot. She turned. We stared at each other for a good long time. My heart shook my whole body and my arms quaked all their own but I held and she turned back broadside and I breathed. She took one step toward the opening - I cocked the hammer soooo sloowwllyy but that metallic click in that snowy kind of silent dusk may as well have been a cannon - and she blew and blew and blew up the hill. It’s hard not to shake my head at some things I would’ve done differently - and hindsight won’t bring her back - but forethought says tomorrow is gonna be fun.