Almost two and a half months had passed since I'd gotten that deer, and although we had put in many hours of hunting, we hadn't even seen any more deer, much less brought one home. I was really starting to doubt that things would ever begin to go our way, but after getting camp opened up, I dragged out my new pop-up blind and headed to the woods. I walked away from the camp at 2:49 and was settled inside the blind at 3:08.
The blind had been selected by me and requested as a Christmas gift. It wasn't anything special - just an inexpensive teepee-type ground blind by Ameristep (model G-10). Not a lot of room inside, but I could stand up in a pinch, and it was easy to sit inside on a folding chair, comfortably out of the wind (and also out of sight with my scent fairly contained), with my rifle at the ready.
I had my rifle propped up on my Bipod Shooting Sticks, pointed down the trail in the only direction I could see any distance. Should I happen to see anything, all I had to do was shoulder the gun and put my eye behind the scope, and I'd be ready to take a shot if the opportunity arose. It was a pretty slick setup, really.
As usual - especially in a place where so few deer showed themselves - I passed the time using my iPod Touch. Whether it was taking pictures of the woods, blind, and rifle, quietly playing sudoku, or keeping notes about what happened and when, it had become a valuable tool for this hunter.
I'd been sitting there for less than an hour when my cell phone vibrated, indicating that a call was coming in. I took a look and saw "Baker Cell" on the LCD screen, indicating that the caller was my long-time employer and friend, Mike Baker. I answered the call, and my world changed.
The caller wasn't Mike, although he was using Mike's phone. It was one of Mike's field employees calling to give me some rotten news: Mike had passed away.
My initial response: "Shit." As I write this account ten and a half months later, that hasn't changed much.
Still sitting in the ground blind, I called my wife and quietly told her the news. Although I normally worked from home, I was Mike's senior employee and would likely need to make the 150-mile trip to the office during the coming week in order to keep the business moving ahead.