My eye through the scope down the barrel of a gun; watched a patch of brown, almost gray fur right behind the crosshair. I watched the creature breathe, watched his diaphragm contract and expand, pull in fresh fall air, then expunge it back through his nostrils. His ear flicked slightly and for a moment I thought he had detected me. I froze. Shortly, he was back to focusing on his travels and continuing his trot down the trail towards the tree I was sitting in.
I slowly, and ever so gently, adjusted my right shoulder to add more support to the awkward position my back was in. My left hand choked up a bit further on the rifle stock, and I leaned my right elbow against the adjacent tree trunk. He was almost in position now, about to turn broadside on the deer trail that would lead him down alongside the marsh bed. My right hand was almost frozen stiff, but I could still move my index finger just enough to disable the gun safety, then lower it to the trigger.
Ever since the whitetail had come down the trail a few minutes ago, my entire nervous system was set under siege by torrent after torrent of epinephrine and norepinephrine. The adrenaline coursed through my every fiber - surged, swelled, and tensed up every muscle in my body until it gathered to form a knot in my throat. And what was I to do with all that energy but sit still. To shoot this deer I needed to be motionless, silent, calm, cool headed, collected, and smart.
I drew in a breath and slowly let it out. Conscious of every faculty of my biology, I did my best to focus my thoughts upon peace, serenity, and the silent, softly falling November snowflakes. I felt some of the tension dissipate through the pores of my skin, as if it rose with my dwindling body heat, and seep into and out of the several layers of wool clothing intended to bundle me against the cold. I repeated one word over and over in my head --"Breathe.” Over and over I stapled the word onto every frantic notion that whipped, shuttered, and tromped around in my brain.
What if he catches wind or sight of me, and I have to shoot him on the run? Could I make that shot? Did I even want to try? Did I even want to kill this unsuspecting animal? Did I need to? Could I go through with it? Why was I hunting in the first place? Breathe.