I lost the track of the buck in a tangle of blowdowns but expected to jump him from his bed with every step. I still-hunted around the basin, posting up a couple of times against trees or on logs, watching the rub line and travel corridors. I grunted and bleated. I kept finding fresh sign and getting a clearer picture, like a map slowly filling in with details of the core area of a big-woods buck. As the day wound down, I moved to a rocky bluff where I could get a longer view and waited. I stayed until the last minute of legal shooting light. I felt a twinge of anxiety as I shouldered my backpack to hike down the ridge. It was going to be a long walk out, in pitch-dark through rough, unfamiliar country. I cinched the straps down tight, knowing that the right amount of risk is a welcome companion on any good adventure, and that somewhere to the west I’d eventually cut an old logging road that would lead me back to my tent.