All too quickly, it is another Thanksgiving and like most of you, I am amazed how fast 2012 is sinking into history. But, I am very happy that God has allowed me to enjoy another year of life in the good ole USA and even more so, living in Alabama, the greatest place on the planet, in my humble opinion. Sometimes when my wife and I are watching TV and we watch folks buying houses on HGTV and moving to a new city or state it looks interesting. But the older I get, the happier I get about my life and the place I live. That gives me plenty of “Thanksgiving” and this whole week, as I enjoy some vacation time, I have time to think about good stuff!
Some of the best “good stuff” I think about is the many wonderful Thanksgivings past where we had large, organized deer hunts using dogs to run the deer past standers. It was a very exciting and effective method of deer hunting and we, like most folks “dog-hunted” for deer on most deer season weekends and holidays with Thanksgiving being the first big hunt of the season. The clamor of the hunters, the excited barking of the dogs, who seemed to have waited all summer for this moment and they jumped out of the truck boxes, yelping, tails wagging, heck! whole bodies wagging! and trembling, straining at the leashes and literally dragging us into the woods awaiting their release!
As a young hunter, I often was sent to a stand with an adult to make sure I was hunting safely and many times, whomever the adult was would allow me the first shot with my single barrel 12 gauge. I took a number of deer under the tutelage of an older relative or family friend. As I got older, I sometimes would take a stand but, I abandoned that around age 12 for a position as a dog handler and “driver”. As a driver, I would release my four black and tan hounds at the agreed spot and time to push the deer out of a section of woods toward the “standers” who got most of the shots. However,many of us who were drivers would get shots on some of the biggest bucks who would “slip” past the dogs when they jumped the deer herd from a hiding spot and the buck would let the other deer lead the way from the jump spot toward the standers. These old bucks were so smart, they would stay bedded down and hid unless a dog or a hunter walked within just a couple of feet from their bedding spot. I have been lucky on several of those hunts to shoot a buck that was still laying down in hiding while the others were running away with the dogs in hot pursuit. An old buck with that much “survival sense” that he is able to keep calm enough to stay still and keep hid in the face of such danger is a real trophy, even if his rack is not a “wall hanger” !
For about 15 years we had a lease on an old farm that was 475 acres and the adjoining timber tract that was close to 600 acres and every Thanksgiving we had relatives from around the state as well as Florida and Michigan to join us in our annual deer drive for the first hunt of the season. It was a quintessential thanksgiving celebration where all the ladies got to “team shop” and prepare a feast for us guys who were all staying out in the woods most of the three or four days, chasing the deer. We didn’t have a camp house but, we had a meeting spot at the entrance to the farm and we would build a big fire and sit around it in between hunts while everyone was taking a break and waiting on dogs to return from some of the long runs. Most of the dogs were trained to return to the place where we parked and would be back within an hour or two of turnout, ready to make another drive after a little rest on the dog blankets we laid out on the ground at the back of the truck. I had an older dog who was a bit slower to return, sometimes staying gone all day, but I just left her dog blanket at the turnout spot. I could come back that night or the next morning and “lady” would be curled up on it waiting for me. She was very good dog, just a bit overzealous at times!
Shortly after I married, life got so busy that we gave up the lease and I gave my dogs to a friend who pledged to take good care of them. I still went on some dog hunts for deer but, without my dogs it just wasn’t the same and like most folks, I made the switch to stand or stalk hunting and that is the way I hunt today for most of my trips to the deer woods. We still get together on Thanksgiving for deer hunts and even sometimes do a “man drive” for deer to push some of the deer out of the heavy cut-overs on our hunting property. We sometimes even bark a little! Then we laugh when we all meet back up and talk about the old days and the Thanksgiving dog drives we all enjoyed so many wonderful years ago!
I plan to make some Thanksgiving memories of the new type this week! Taking my granddaughter hunting and sitting in a shooting hut waiting for a big buck and telling her about the “old days”. I remember when I was the one listening to the stories and I hope I can do as good a job telling the stories as My Grandfather did telling me of his child hood hunts!
Be Thankful for all your hunting trips and hunting stories!
Make some to enjoy in the future!