A cold, misty, pre-dawn gray permeated the woods as the sun rose on an overcast early December morning. A lone logging road twisted along the valley floor, entering an "S" shaped curve below hills of mature hardwoods. Orange, crimson, and gold leaves laced the road with the colors of fall. Every twenty yards those wonderful fall colors were scraped away beneath low hanging branches that overhung the road. Rich, dark earth stood in stark contrast to the colors that surrounded it. These scrapes appeared in the "S turn" every twenty yards or so, as they had for years. If one could sit and observe this place the only thing you'd see moving was a regular but fleeting trace of fog emanating from high in a Sweetgum tree forty yards up the ridge in the middle of the turn. That trace of fog was a predators breath on the air. It was the only sign that betrayed his presence. The woods were graveyard still. 150 grains of cold black powder sat behind a frigid copper slug, in a freezing steel barrel. Time was the only thing moving. The head of this narrow valley is a confluence of bedding, feeding, and travel areas, and is routinely covered up in scrapes every fall. It's a perfect setup when the wind is right because you can sit on a small ridge right in the middle of the "S" and be above everything, with scrapes and travel corridors all around you. The morning's dim, gray, calm gave way to a brighter set of woods with squirrels clamoring about. Sitting perfectly still I could see them descending the straight trunks of their lofty lairs. They'd dart and bound along the ground, kicking up leaves and rustling along the forest floor as they searched for food. The search for food frequently devolved into a game where one would chase another across a downed limb, then up and around a trunk they'd go trying to elude each other in what looked as much like a kids game of tag as anything else. The birds were awake and moving. Crows were flying high, making a periodic racket as they are known to do. Blue jays and a variety of other birds flitted through the forest going about their daily business. Still I sat, motionless. The sun got high and burned away the clouds to reveal as blue a sky as I could recall sitting under. It's beautiful hue made even more intense by the stark, bare branches that criss crossed my view of it. It was cold, it was clear, and it was muzzle loader season. Directly below my stand, the logging road came in from the left, turned away from me, crossed a low creek, then turned left again to continue down the valley. I was basically looking at a "U" in the road with the closest point being 40 yards to the foot of the hill. I was in one of the many hardwood trees that dotted the hill. After a four hour sit in my perch in the turn, I heard what I'd been waiting for. Hours of silence, stillness, and discomfort had been endured in the hope it would lead to this. A deer came down the valley from the right and walked into the middle of "U". I always sit with my gun shouldered, so all I had to do was move a few inches and I had him in the scope. A nice buck walked out on my side of the turn and was walking down the road just 60 yards from me. It was a quartering toward view, and as soon as I could release the safety, I released the trigger. BOOOOOOOMMMM!!!!! That 150 grain powder charge shattered the frozen silence of the morning woods, and as I waited for the smoke to clear all I could hear were crows loudly protesting my shot as they fled the area. It was so cold, and the shot so loud, that it seemed impossible at least a few trees didn't shatter from the noise alone. The smoke cleared and there stood a dandy of a buck. Yes. Stood. He was standing there like he was trying to figure out what the noise was. My breathing was a little heavier now, and I tried to keep the gun steady. There would be no quick follow up shot because this is a muzzle loader. I couldn't believe my eyes. 30 seconds must have passed and he was still just standing there. We were both still as statues, each playing a different role in this drama. After I got past the initial shock of seeing him standing, my mind ran through the options. "Did I MISS?!" That's usually the last possible option for me. I'm a good shot, I practice, I know my gear and I know myself. I'm not the guy who misses, but I was staring at almost indisputable proof that I'd missed. I stared so hard at that deer trying to figure out what happened, and then I saw it. Just behind his shoulder there was a small movement. It was a trickle of blood. It was running down his fur, and now dripping off onto the ground. He had just soaked up a hard hit from a .50 cal muzzle loader at 60 yards and was standing there like a champ. Now I knew I had him. It was a solid hit, but he still just stood there. A minute must have gone by before I saw him move at all. When he finally moved he slowly limped over to the thick brush along the creek and lied down. Once he lied down I was in a better position to reload. I still couldn't move quickly because he was just 50 yards away with nothing between us. This is why all my gear is organized. My reloads are always in the same pocket, loaded the same way, in a container that lets me tell which end is the powder just by feeling it. I never have to look to reload. I kept my eyes on that deer and slooooowly reached for my reload. I moved at a glacial pace so that I wouldn't alert that deer to my presence. The powder went down the tube, and the deer simply looked around. I got the bullet in the barrel and pressed it down slowly. Still he sat. The gun came up very slowly so he wouldn't see that long black lever moving around in the tree. I got it primed, and just as I was getting the gun to my shoulder he stood up and started to walk downstream. BOOM! As fast as I could, I finished the mount, found him in the scope, released the safety and sent him one. All told it took less than a second to go from the last mounting motion to giving him another. Then he dropped, and stayed dropped. I'm still surprised to this day by the amount of punishment that deer took without even reacting. I took his near lung and just barely grazed the far one. They are tough and tasty in equal measure. I can't wait to get back out in the woods again. Life is simpler there, and I feel alive, and connected.