Another Thanksgiving holiday is near and as much as I enjoy the turkey, cranberry sauce and pecan pie, The most enjoyable part is our traditions away from the table of the feast.
We enjoy the fellowship, the handshakes and hugs, comments and jokes about our everchanging waistlines and hair lines. Seeing the children’s growth and the young adults, some with new spouses or atleast new friends. We speak about how the time has flown, we cry about those who have “passed on” and each year the bittersweet reflections that are just memories are shared again with tears and with grins.
A big part of our “after the turkey” fellowship is a discussion of our past Thanksgiving holiday hunts. We generally find a spot near the fireplace at my father in law’s home after the mid day meal and the old stories begin. The women are off in the kitchen around the table swapping recipes, gossip and shopping strategies for black Friday. We are talking hunting, hunting trips we recall and of course, gear and ammo we use hunting. We used to discuss football and the Iron Bowl but, now it is another “pot strirrer” topic since some of the new inlaws are Auburn grads or fans.
One thing we all have in common and can join in discussions of, is our love of the Winter woods and the majesty of the cold, gray days we enjoy watching the creatures of the woods go about their lives, mostly oblivious to ours. In the 60′s, 70′s and early 80′s we still had our annual Thanksgiving day dog drive hunts and they were so exciting! The unpredictability of the chase was so much fun, the shared experience of hunting and the satisfaction of the kill were all makers of a wonderful sport and we thought we would always hunt that way. However, in the mid 80′s a dog hunter was somehow viewed by some as a lesser hunter than the guys who hunted from stands our stalking. When the land owner we had leased from for more than 20 years, passed away over the summer that year, his estate was divided and sold by his heirs, our dog hunting days came to an abrupt end.
We took it in stride and got a small lease but, dog hunting was disallowed. The lease was too small for a practical dog hunt anyway so I gave my four hounds away to a trusted acquantance who was a member of a dog club over in another county. We all had lots of experience in stalk and stand hunting so we learned to enjoy it as well. We would draw for stands and help each other when a deer was taken to drag it to the truck. Three wheelers were just getting some notoriety as a hunting tool but, they were not much good at hauling out a big buck up the hills on our lease. Muscle power was still the only way to get a buck to the truck and it was one of our cliches’ about who was man enough to get the buck to the truck!
The older guys, My dad, father in law and several uncles would chide us with tales of how they when they were young and strong they could carry a buck for miles swinging from a “gambling pole” and that we were just not men, just boys! This would always incite us to action while they smiled and laughed all the way out. I remember when my dad killed a nice 10 pointer one thanksgiving hunt, we hauled him around on the hood of our old army surplus jeep and showed him off until dark that day! It was 1967, a cold and raw day. We were poor, dad and mom worked hard, but that night when that big buck was hoisted in our front yard, neighbors cames from miles around, some even took pictures with old brownie cameras and my mom made a movie on our old 8mm camera that we saw a dozen times later at Thanksgiving, Christmas and such, blessed financially with so little and blessed with richness so much!
Every Thanksgiving, a dozen or more great hunts come back to the forefront in my mind. Memories of fun hunts, some great in terms of deer taken, some not. But, the fellowship with each other, the sounds of our dogs, the calls of the drivers, the shouts from them when they jumped deer headed our way, always give me some great thanksgiving deer hunting memories. I have already picked out the old story I plan to talk about around Tony’s fireplace after turkey this week. It’s about a young man who made a 365 yard shot and took a really big 8 pointer before we even turned the dogs out of the box!
Be sure to make some great Thanksgiving deer hunting memories!