THE INKY BLACKNESS SWIRLS around you and the light predawn breeze swishes gently through the woods surrounding you.

You see vague shapes and forms looming up in front of you, one looking like a deer standing still as a statue, another like a man stretching his arms high after just rolling out of a sleeping bag. In full light, those forms will turn out to be stumps and trees with broken branches.

The forest is not yet quite awake, but that’s OK with you because you are still wiping the sleep out of your eyes as well.

It matters not whether the trail you are following leads to a favored deer stand, a huge pine against which you will lean your back while listening to the first gobbler of the morning to sound off, or a stretch of stream where you know a beautiful brook trout is just waiting for your first cast.

This morning, perhaps, you will find the tree you plan to lean back against with little problem, even with no flashlight to point the way. You will unsnap the cushion seat which is part of your turkey hunting vest, sit down quietly and for the next half hour or so, simply listen as the forest comes to new life on a new day.

Easing back, you relax, the cold air of a frosty April morning nipping your nose just a bit. With each bit of increasing light and with the first gobbler sounding off from a nearby roost, you come fully awake and alert.

It is a good time to be alone in the woods.

The woods — except for the rustling of the few rusty-brown leaves still hanging from otherwise starkly barren black oak branches — are quiet, but as the minutes pass by, more and more the woods come alive.

A chickadee sounds from a bush behind you, a raven caws while making its maiden morning flight and from down by the stream a deer snorts. Light is surely taking over the day as each minute passes, but in this time of early-morning semidarkness, you revel in all that surrounds you.

There may be important business for you to attend to in the coming minutes and hours, but for now, you relax and let your mind, body and soul prepare in peace for whatever comes.

Anyone who has grown up in the woods, especially in this piece of north Wisconsin woods we call home, knows the spirituality which goes with being the sole human in a small corner of it, soaking in the treasures God has created.

These thoughts occupy your mind for a while longer, but only until that first gobble of the morning sounds off. Even though you know you did it back at the truck, you check your shotgun to make sure there is a shell in the chamber.

You pick up your box call and return that early gobble with a quiet, soft yelp of your own telling the big boy you are after that “Here I am, come get me.” Me, in this case, would be the ready hen you are doing your best to imitate.

That is the way it is a frosty April morning, but other early mornings at other times of the year, the clearing away of a dark night may mean something else.

It may mean robins chirping as they poke around for earthworms hiding underneath the forest litter. A canoe that was carried to a rustic landing where no motorized boat could possibly be launched may disturb the early morning forest in summer as it scratches over a gravelly notch along the shore of a secluded little lake.

An early July morning, this daybreak time might reveal a hen mallard with a gaggle of ducklings trailing her as they begin their day of searching for the right food that will grow those ducklings into the strong-winged beautiful creatures that all ducks are.

In August or early September, this predawn time will probably carry with it the sounds of a few hardy crickets chirping defiantly against the looming frosts of autumn that will spell the end of another year for them.

Predawn moments in October, for those like this old duck hunter, mean frosted, numb fingers as wooden and plastic decoys have strings unwound from around their necks before being dropped just so into a north Wisconsin lake covered with wild rice or a North Dakota prairie pothole where ducks are sure to fly.

The metallic click of a shell being slid into the chamber of a semiautomatic shotgun is easily heard from a distance a hushed October predawn morning. The light splash of a teal landing near the decoys just before shooting hours such a quiet morning sounds as loud as a 40-pound muskie thrashing on the end of a line while being urged toward a waiting net.

The camper of a summer predawn morning feels the dampness yet of dew on the ferns as he rolls out of his sleeping bag, anxious to build a small campfire which will ward off the morning chill.

The deer hunters gather in their shack, a hot fire burning in a potbellied stove waiting to dispense the aroma of sizzling bacon and strongly brewed coffee. Outside the shack, darkness is getting ready to give in to the demands of daylight, but at that time, the forest remains quiet in cautious slumber.

This time of darkness turning to light, of night turning to day, is a good time. It’s a time for awakening senses and new hopes for another day.

Shortly, there may be a glowing sun lighting up all that surrounds a person in the forest, but for now, it is quiet, dark and time for reflection before getting on with the business at hand.

There is no finer time to be alive and in the outdoors.