Friday, September 20, 2019

The SenTree

sentry noun sen·​try | \ ˈsen-trē  \plural sentries
Definition of sentry: GUARD, WATCH  especially : a soldier standing guard at a point of passage (such as a gate)

A recent South Dakota Magazine article about trees and the stories they hold reminded me of a tree that has overseen so many of my late fall sunrises. The tree doesn’t even sit on my property. It does, however, sit as the backdrop for virtually every deer that has been harvested on our property for the past 25 years.

I think the tree is some kind of elm but I don’t know for certain. I’ve never touched it. I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten within 20-25 yards of it. By the time it factors into our deer hunts, the leaves have long ago fallen and it would be difficult for me to even determine what kind of tree it actually is - not that it matters. When you look at the tree during the day, it is extremely unremarkable.

During deer season, however, the sun rises directly behind this tree when you sit in our deer stand. It transforms from “just another tree” to “the tree”.

First the dim blue light starts to appear on the horizon 60-75 minutes before sunrise and you can just start to see the silhouette of “the tree”. On a good morning with some light, wispy clouds, the deep oranges, pinks and reds will start to outline the clouds about 30 minutes before sunrise and “the tree" becomes a prominent landmark on the horizon.

Like a good sunset, the colors change quickly. As sunrise approaches, the colors become brighter and more vivid until the first dawn of the sun peeks above the horizon, right behind “the tree”.
On many occasions, the glorious view of the sunrise behind the tree has distracted us from deer below. I’d be surprised if we hadn’t missed out on a nice deer because of the diversion of a spectacular sunrise.

As the full glowing ball rises above the horizon, the light becomes blinding. The bill of a hunting cap is a necessary tool if you are to have any chance of spotting a buck below. Even with the cap, the best view of the land beneath has passed until some 3-4 hours later when the glare of the sun is no longer a factor.

I have written about our remarkable sunsets set on a stunning canvas with the Missouri River in the foreground. This locale, with “the tree” in the foreground and a new day dawning, is just as extraordinary (and was included in this list of my favorite South Dakota views).

Just as I have trouble restraining myself from taking a photo of each sunset from our backyard, that same temptation itches each morning that the sun makes its appearance behind the tree. The commotion caused by retrieving the camera from my pocket and taking a photo of the sunrise has frightened more than one deer from our midst.

Each sunrise, though, promises another day of hunting memories with "the tree" watching over us!

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