It was a frosty morning this past Saturday, the opening morning of muzzleloader season. Dad and I made our way up to familiar territory, a place that had bred us both with much success over the years. I was in this area the previous weekend and noticed how the ground was tore up by deer on the search for acorns.
I decided to sit in my trusty ground blind, one that has been the setting for many of my previous deer stories. Dad continued up the walking path until he reached his destination. He was fortunate to actually see two deer skipping along as he meandered up the mountainside. This was the first deer sighting of the 2021 season for either of us.
After a more than three hour sit, Dad and I got on the radios. He told me about his deer sighting and we agreed to meet along the walking path. The air was bitter, and the wind chilled us to the bone. The idea was that the walk of about 200 yards would warm us up somewhat.
Along the way, I noticed some well-established deer trails cresting the ridge and heading up towards what we know as a good bedding area. As it had last snowed on Thursday morning, this much deer sign within a two-day span required my attention. It didn’t take a genius to figure out the deer were using these trails to get from their bedding to the acorns below.
I met Dad and brought him to the deer trails. We decided to build a ground blind, centering on three heavily used trails that funneled through this one area, a mixture of hardwoods and pines. From where I would sit, the furthest trail would be about a 30-yard shot.
Dad went on his way. His plan was to still hunt in the general direction of the truck, allowing him to not have such a long walk back to the vehicle in the dark. I settled in and ate my lunch. I would have approximately three and a half hours of legal shooting light to try out my new stand.
At about 2:30 PM, I heard footsteps on the crunchy snow. I looked to my immediate right, and at about 60 feet away, stood a decent-sized doe, staring straight at me. Right behind her were two smaller deer, both antlerless. This was most likely a mother and two older fawns. I now had the first deer sightings of my 2021 season.
The deer swung out in front of me along the furthest deer trail, and walked broadside at 30 yards, before disappearing over a small hump to my left. They had come up from the acorns and appeared to be heading towards the bedding area. I was simply ecstatic to see a deer.
Settling back in, I thought of my good fortune. I was happy to not get shut out for the entire season. Suddenly, I heard more crunching off to my right. After a few seconds, I saw the back of a deer poking its way up a bank and into view. For a moment, I was sure this would be the buck following the group of does. It turned out to be a fourth doe, with a small fawn in tow. They got onto the same trail and heading in the same direction.
I was now on high alert. I spent the next two hours expecting a buck to come along. One never did, but I was okay with it. As I made my long, lonely trek out of the woods in the dark, I gave a silent thanks for being able to witness such beautiful creatures up close in their home habitat. I was lucky, indeed.
The Astros took over first place in the AL West and never really looked back, cruising to another division title. In the postseason, the Astros took down a talented and up and coming Chicago White Sox team 3-1 to advance to the ALCS. There, they took down the Jekyll and Hyde Boston Red Sox 4-2 to move on to their third World Series in five seasons.
The Braves endured a roller coaster season, which included inconsistent play, as well as the loss of their best player, Ronald Acuna Jr. to a season ending injury. Atlanta benefitted from playing in the mediocre NL East and righted the ship to win their third consecutive division title. The Braves eliminated the Milwaukee Brewers in 3-1 in the division series. In the NLCS, Atlanta took down the defending World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 to secure their first trip to the fall classic since 1999.
Both teams possess plenty of firepower. The Astros have the likes of Michael Brantley, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and ALCS MVP Yordan Alverez up and down its lineup.
The Braves, despite the loss of Acuna, have talented guys who can swing the bat, as well, including Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley, Ozzie Albies, Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, and Adam Duvall. Meanwhile, Eddie Rosario had three home runs to go along with his 14 NLCS hits.
EDGE: Astros. It’s a slight edge, but the emergence of Alverez on the big stage gives that edge to Houston.
No Lance McCullers for Houston once again. However, because of the emergence of Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia in the ALCS, McCullers’ absence is not a death knell for the Astros. Should Houston’s top two staters neutralize Atlanta’s top bats, it’s advantage in the bullpen (more on that later) could be the determining factor in the series.
Max Fried and Charlie Morton should toe the rubber for the Braves in the first two games. Morton has considerable World Series experience, playing a huge role in the Astros’ 2017 championship. Ian Anderson waits in the wings for game three.
Edge: Braves. Another slight edge, given Morton’s postseason history.
The Astros feature Kendall Graveman, Ryan Pressly, Phil Maton, and Ryan Stanek as part of a solid, if unspectacular bullpen. None of the four gave up more than one earned run in the ALCS.
The Braves feature closer Will Smith, as well as Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson, and AJ Minter. Jackson and Matzek have had rough outings in the postseason.
Edge: Astros. Again, this matchup may decide the whole thing.
Houston plays under the steady leadership of longtime baseball man Dusty Baker, who had the unenviable task of replacing AJ Hinch, who was let go as part of the team’s sign stealing scandal in 2017. Baker has done a fantastic job in both the regular season and the postseason, albeit without drawing much attention to his abilities.
Meanwhile, Atlanta’s Brian Snitker has quietly had a successful run as the Braves’ manager, finally guiding the team over the playoff hump and into the World Series.
Edge: Even. Both managers are vastly underrated. This fall classic may be decided on the field.
Astros in 6. Houston’s bats are able to score enough to get Atlanta’s starters out of the game and into the bullpen. Here, the Astros control the late innings and win a couple of one-run games in the late or extra innings.
Disclaimer: I got both league championship series predictions wrong, so DO NOT use this post as a means to go to the betting lines!