Giving Thanks – Day 11

I’m thankful for hunting. Well, at least, memories of hunting. Monday is the first day of firearm deer season. When I was young I used to get almost physically ill with anticipation of going deer hunting. Until I was old enough to carry a real gun, my BB gun was my companion.

I don’t like the cold now, but when it was time to go hunting, I didn’t care about the temperature. I only cared about getting out into the woods and finding that big buck. The big buck I never got, by the way. I see photos in the paper of young hunters bagging 10 point bucks and even bigger. I never even saw a deer that big. My big buck was a spike horn I got when I was fourteen.

My big chance for a nice buck came when I was sixteen. My dad got sick in the woods so he left, but before he walked back to the car, he took the 12 gauge pump shotgun I was carrying and gave me his .30-06 Remington semi-automatic rifle with a scope. A gun I had never used before, and only fired once. Big mistake. It wasn’t long after he left that several shots were fired not far from me, and a 6 or 8 point buck charged through a thicket right at me. I unloaded the Remington at the buck and missed even though he came close enough for me to club him with the rifle.

My own boys were enthusiastic about hunting and we spent many hours stalking both pheasant and deer. Like their dad, the boys had Red Ryder BB guns before they were old enough to carry a real firearm. There was always something to shoot, even when it was a bottle of some kind of liquid that, when the bottle was broken, unleashed an nether-worldly stench that chased us through the woods.

The first time we went deer hunting while they were still carrying the Red Ryders, I discovered they had no gloves when we arrived at our hunting spot. They said they wouldn’t be able to pull the trigger if they had gloves on. We bought gloves when we went to get lunch.

When the boys were old enough to really hunt, it seemed the identical two of the three (triplets) were more interested in having fun than seriously hunting. I left them in a blind and their brother (who was more like Daniel Boone,) and I went to another part of the woods. We were just settled when a shot rang out, sounding like it came from the blind. We walked back to them and heard the explanation. They were going to take turns looking out the window, so one started a small fire in a coffee can. The other fired a shot after telling his brother he saw a deer, which he didn’t believe. Actually, there was a deer. He fired, missed, and the deer didn’t run. He stood there, staring at my son, mocking him. When he ejected the shell from his single-shot .410, the shell hit the top of the metal blind. Then the deer ran.

Truth be told, I never really liked venison. I think we had more venison than beef while growing up. Moose meat was gamey, tough and dry. Yuck.

Today my hunting instincts, if I ever had any, are completely gone. I would rather pet deer than hunt them. If there still are pheasants anywhere, I would rather feed than fry them.

It’s been more than twenty years since I was in the woods, but I still have that stirring of excitement when I see pickups parked near the woods and campers heading up north. The song says, “…the second week of deer camp is the greatest time of year.”

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