As I had done on several previous mornings, I loaded my gear into the kayak and gently nudged it away from shore.

But it had been several days since my last trip, and apparently the river dropped in the interim because instead of sliding gently into the flowage, the craft stuck fast, then rolled slightly on its side against my effort. I knew without looking what had made the sudden splash – my deer rifle, now submerged in six inches of water. Some days start better than others, and this was obviously not one of those days.

I’ve had my share of bad beginnings but I guess that’s to be expected if you spend enough time in the woods. The list of examples is lengthy and ever growing but includes such things as oversleeping, getting lost on the way to an unfamiliar destination, forgetting my bullets, and yes, even forgetting my gun.

I’ve had deer hunts derailed by numerous external forces like bad weather, other hunters, and even domestic animals. Having a landowner’s golden retriever follow you to your tree stand can be frustrating, but there’s not much you can do about it except cringe. And sometimes the most unexpected and inexplicable experiences plague me.

One of my most infamously memorable mornings occurred several years ago on a Saskatchewan deer hunt. The problems started as I was making a thermos of cocoa and the lid blew off, scalding my face and arms with the hot liquid. After the pain subsided and my eyes stopped watering, I made a second, much more careful and successful attempt.

Later, riding along in the dark, my guide and I spied taillights ahead and he muttered, “Uh-oh.” One of the other guides had broken down – a flat tire and no jack. We did the only thing we could and rendered assistance, which took until after sunrise. There would be no sneaking into my blind before daylight. Still, my guide rode me in on an ATV, dropped me off and bid me good luck as I climbed up the ladder and into what could best be described as a lineman’s bucket with a lid.

Saskatchewan deer hunts are characterized by long hours of sitting – typically from before dawn until after dark – in almost unbearably cold temperatures. “The colder, the better,” the guides like to say with a chuckle. Having sufficiently warm apparel and nourishment is crucial to enduring the best hunting days.

I thought I was in pretty good shape until I reached into my pack and felt a wet sensation. My heart sunk with the sudden realization that my thermos cover had again blown off, soaking the contents of my pack, including my warm hat and gloves, with now tepid cocoa. Frustrated, discouraged and dejected, I reasoned that I had no choice so I might as well try and make the best of it. The hat wasn’t too bad and I kept my hands in my pockets as much as possible. Still, I reasoned the aroma of cocoa probably wasn’t offering much help.

Apparently, the deer didn’t care. Either that, or the odor molecules froze solid before they reached the deer’s noses, because around mid-morning the activity picked up. Several does were feeding in front of me when they suddenly got nervous and stared into the dense conifers beyond. A dark shape moved slowly through the shadows, the shape of a large body, with large, brown antlers. The buck broke cover and walked slowly but deliberately toward the does. When he paused at 75 yards, I dropped the hammer on my muzzleloader, making a lethal shot.

No, some days don’t start out as well as others. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still have a happy ending.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

[email protected]