OUTDOORS COLUMN: Wandering windward

Bob Kornegay

Bob Kornegay

Sometimes the wind is wicked. Sometimes it twists and turns, blowing chaos and destruction. At such times I fear the wind and dread its very presence.

Sometimes, though, the wind is kind, cooling with wafting breezes a sweat-soaked brow on a hot, humid summer afternoon. Or perhaps lulling one to sleep in a gently swaying hammock during a fall evening.

Sometimes the wind makes gentle mischief, continually blowing my too-light boat beyond casting distance of a crappie school or shellcracker bed. Sometimes it rocks my pine tree perch and disallows all attempts at accurate aiming, letting the deer walk away unscathed.

Sometimes the wind breathes cold. It hurts ears, noses and other naked protuberances. It makes tears come, not from pain or sadness, but in defense of eyes that would suffer greatly from wind-dryness. It often causes frigid fingers to disobey time-sensitive commands, be they orders to reel, cast, squeeze a trigger or focus binoculars.

Yes, the wind is a fickle and sometimes contemptuous companion.

But not this morning. This day it blows neither hot nor cold. My body produces no perspiration. There is no humidity-fueled shortness of breath. I suffer not from wind-numbed, brittle, frostbitten appendages.

Not to say the wind is not alive today. On the contrary, a stiff, steady breeze is blowing. It blows, however, to my advantage, not my discomfort or aggravation. It is a good wind. A woods-walk wind.

Moving through the trees with this wind in my face, I see things I might not otherwise. The wind’s sound deafens most wild things to my approaching footfalls as its direction blows human pungency away from sharp noses. This morning it is only the wariest birds, with their ever-sharp eyes, that take flight as usual at my passing. I am not seriously birding today. That breeds no frustration.

There is much to see on a two-hour trek against a scent-and-sound-dispersing headwind. The first sighting comes early, moments after entering the woods. Detecting movement, I stop to watch a plump raccoon trudge toward homeward after a long night’s rambling. He’s doing well. If girth is any indication, he’s had a very good spring.

I spy a great horned owl (one rare exception to the fleeing birdlife) in a denuded mockernut hickory. His daytime roost seems quite safe and secure, if he can avoid the prying eyes of the crows and their penchant for making an owl’s life miserable. He seems to regard me with no emotion whatsoever. It’s an old wives-tale, I know, but he really does look wise.

I get very near the gray squirrels. They scamper and run as usual, but from each other, not me. The waving pine boughs and the rustling of the hardwood leaves mask my approach.

There are more deer than usual for a breezy morning. They don’t bolt in panic either. Being upwind of me, they just stare for a long moment and eventually move leisurely off. I don’t even stop or change my pace. Whitetail curiosity almost always overcomes caution in the absence of human odor. Something to remember if you hunt with the old fashioned stalk-and-stealth method.

The wood ducks feeding on acorns near the creek take frenzied, squealing flight at my approach. Wariness is their watchword from dawn to dusk, hang the wind. The bobcat, however, that may have been stalking the ducks, takes a long hard look at me before slinking away. So much for breakfast, Ol’ Tom. Better luck at lunchtime.

I turn and retrace my steps on my homeward journey. Now, with the wind at my back, the wildlife sightings grow noticeably less. The “scent cone” and the noise of modern man precede me. The once-relaxed critters now smell and hear E-N-E-M-Y.

All except my old friend the owl. He’s still there, perched motionless in the hickory. I suppose he’ll be there until sundown.

I’d like to believe maybe he really is wise enough to know this particular human means no harm, whichever way the wind blows.

Nah, guess not, but it’s a good thought.

Questions? Comments? E-mail Bob Kornegay at cletus@windstream.net