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Hunter’s mind wanders during down time in woods

Several days alone in the woods can result in the mind wandering to some interesting places, but there are sometimes physical signs of other minds wandering, too. (Courtesy of Brett French/Billings Gazette)
Several days alone in the woods can result in the mind wandering to some interesting places, but there are sometimes physical signs of other minds wandering, too. (Courtesy of Brett French/Billings Gazette)
By Brett French The Billings Gazette

BILLINGS – Alone in the woods, amid the wonders of nature, I often think deeply about the important questions in life, such as: Is buying Halloween candy cheaper per ounce than buying whole candy bars?

Yep, sometimes too much time alone in the woods can let the evil squirrels of my mind run a little wild.

The topic came up because I love mini candy bars for snacks while I’m hunting. One day I forgot them and was feeling a bit blue. So in contemplating my dilemma the question arose about whether these two-bite snacks, although incredibly convenient and offering great variety, were really costing me a bunch more money. After all, I’m the kind of guy who tries to repop popcorn old maids, those unpopped kernels of corn.

Naturally, I assumed someone would have already figured this out for me online, but an internet search showed nothing that fit my question. By doing a bit of math, which my former editor will admit is always a bit scary, I calculated that small Hershey bars are cheaper than a regular bar by about 14 cents an ounce. Aha! Victory is mine!

Not so fast, Stewie. Once I calculated the cost for buying big candy bars in bulk, I discovered an additional savings of 3 cents per ounce. This is why I don’t like math. It’s always dashing my fragile chocolate-coated dreams.

Despite the dream-crushing math, I still don’t feel guilty about eating all of the Halloween candy before Halloween, provided I can find where my wife hid it.

A perfect time to take a nap in the great outdoors is after snacking on a mini candy bar. The exception to this rule is when there are actively feeding bears nearby. Nobody wants to wake up to a bear eating their mini bars, tuna fish or a much-loved and needed appendage.

For some reason – provided you can block that whole drooling bear image from your mind – nothing is quite as restful as reclining in the grass with the sun on your face, but the air just chill enough to keep you cool and comfortable.

You know you’ve found a good hunting buddy when they don’t mind if you are catching a few Zs under a tree. By the way, backpacks make great pillows for outdoor naps.

I’ve heard tales of other hunters falling asleep and awaking to find a large deer standing nearby, but I think my snoring scares off any game within about a 300-yard circumference.

Reclining in the grass also has the added advantage of confusing hunters who may pass by later and see the unusually large area of foliage matted down, much larger than a deer and more elongated than an elk. A well-fed python bed, they may think, or possibly the resting place of an oversized slug, which would be very close to the truth.

My last strange woodsy thought was that maybe camouflage clothing is TOO concealing for hunters. Maybe the animals aren’t coming close because they aren’t curious enough to investigate something that looks like an oak tree in the middle of a pine forest.

So my idea is to dress up like John Travolta’s character in that 1970s disco movie, “Saturday Night Fever.” I think a puffy-sleeved pink shirt, wide white bell bottoms and a flashy gold chain may just attract cow elk or doe deer looking for a different dancing partner. After all, if deer and elk are anything like humans, most of the guys are too self-conscious to dance. Maybe a boom box loaded with a cassette of the Bee Gees blaring “Staying Alive” would heighten the attraction. My young readers, both of you, may have to look up those last few references.

While many of my mental wanderings are a bit offbeat, occasionally I will stumble across something in nature that is almost as wild. While photographing fall colors last week I noticed that one large, old pine next to a golden aspen had unusual bark. Looking closer I could see several claw marks on the huge tree’s trunk. The tree was a mountain lion’s scratching post.

Craning my neck back to look up the length of the tall pine, whose only branches were about 60 feet above ground, I could see claw marks climbing all the way up the big pine. I imagined the lion trying to back down from that great height, thinking it might be somewhat awkward even for such an athletic animal. Then I imagined walking beneath that lion’s lofty perch unaware of the possible danger lurking overhead. The little hairs on the back of my neck tingled. Maybe that’s how a deer feels after realizing it has walked under a hunter’s tree stand.

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