On a crisp morning with the stars still visible pinpricks in an ever-brightening sky, the sleepy hunter climbs eight steps to the stand.
A breeze blows through the trees, but thankfully there's not a hint of bad weather.
A mental checklist is part of settling in: hot coffee, plastic-wrapped cheese Danish, hooded sweatshirt, bedroom slippers.
Bedroom slippers on a deer hunt? It's easy when you're stalking prey in your guest room.
That's the reality of computer hunting, where the crackling camp fire is replaced by the antiseptic glow of the video screen, bagging a trophy animal doesn't require messing with the innards and indoor plumbing is just steps away.
Where's the fun in that?
Well, apparently lots of folks have taken to the virtual woods for an un-PC activity played on a PC. And they are not alone. The market also is awash with video games for anglers.
Millions of these big boxes with the little disks have been sold - more than 80 percent of them at huge chain stores such as Wal-Mart and Target. At about $20 a pop, who cares if you play it once and put it on a shelf?
Moreover, you don't need the latest hardware to slaughter game.
A 166 MHz Pentium PC with 32 megabytes of RAM, 200 to 300 megabytes of hard disk space, a sound card and a 3D graphics card (or a 266 MHz Pentium PC with a regular 2D graphics card) are all you need for these games.
These games have attracted partnerships with a number of respected outdoors names: Field and Stream, Cabela's, Bassmaster, FLW Pro Bass Tournament.
And Ted Nugent. Four out of five ain't bad.
On several recent wet, raw weekends, we pulled out a Swiss Army knife, sliced through the outer wrappers and installed a few of these games to see if they could satisfy an outdoors jones. We chose three fishing games, two hunting games. And Ted Nugent.
In fishing games, the best of the school was Field and Stream Trophy Bass 4 by Sierra Sports.
If you don't have a bass boat with trolling motor, but wish you did, this is the game for you. The outboard roars, the trolling motor hums, just like the real things.
The lunkers (them's bass for the uninitiated) look and move pretty good.
Anglers can choose rods and lures and pick the level of hook-setting difficulty based on their skill level. If you get stumped, the game has a "Pro Tips" section.
Bassmasters Classic Tournament Edition by THQ calls upon the pros who tour on the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society circuit. Shaw Grigsby welcomes you and Paul Elias and Roland Martin supply advice.
The game works like a real BASS tournament, with contestants racing the clock to fill their live well with bass and then racing to the dock for the weigh in.
If you don't like the pressure of tournament play, kick back with your choice of rod and lure and fish one of four lakes. The game provides a number of different views, including underwater, to keep the action moving.
FLW Professional Bass Tournament 2000 allows an angler to choose a real fishery from the tour: Beaver Lake, Mississippi River, Red River, Lake Okeechobee (but not my favorite, Lake Champlain - drat).
As the name implies, the game concentrates on tournament-style action, but it also has a noncompetitive mode like the Bassmaster game.
The graphics are bland and computer-like. Ditto the sound effects.
All three fishing games have a basic flaw: There's no outdoors in the outdoors. No birds chirping or flying overhead, no passing anglers to lie to, no ducks paddling by. How dull!
The hunting games do a better job of re-creating the call of the wild.
Field and Stream Trophy Hunting 4 by Sierra Sports has enough options to keep even the most jaded Hemingway wannabe happy.
You can start in the shooting range to practice with a firearm you choose, move to Hunt Now or Single Player (one is a random hunt, the other is set by the hunter), or opt to play online. Later, visit the Trophy Room, cognac in hand (you supply), to view dead animals greatest hits.
Choose species to hunt, time of year, weather and wind direction.
Unlike the fishing games, this one has plenty of realistic animal noises and lush foliage. But the makers skimped on the gunshots. Very tinny.
You won't be able to simulate the camaraderie of deer camp with Cabela's Big Game Hunter 4 designed by Elsinore. It doesn't have a multi-player mode.
What it does have is plenty of options. Choose from one of four hunting locations - Pennsylvania, Labrador, Michigan or Nevada - and a season. Then decide whether you want to be pampered and have all your gear selected by a video guide or do it yourself.
Sound effects are great, right down to the crickets, but the scenery could use a little landscaping.
If you want to use a game as a way to introduce a youngster to hunting, this one has a useful feature.
A "game warden" offers advice and reminds the player of safety and ethical issues. And if you don't heed the warnings, you can wind up in video "jail."
Which brings us to that bad boy of hunting, the Nuge.
Ted Nugent Wild Hunting Adventure designed by Future Primitive makes you feel like you're in an arcade. The music is loud and Ted is in your face with pearls such as: "Kill stuff, add fire, eat, burp, have a good night."
The gore level is pretty high, so this probably isn't one for younger kids. And the scenery looks like cardboard cutouts.
But Nugent gets points for making safety a big part of his game. Do something dumb and dangerous and "the Nuge" deducts points from your score and the Detroit City Madman pops up on screen to scorch you.
After hours of staring at the tube, it occurred to me that the makers of hunting and fishing computer games seem to have missed the point of why folks hunt and fish.
It's the outdoors, stupid!Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times