I’ve been home in Phillips for hunting season every year for as long as I can remember. Since I was about 15 years old I hunted every year, too. It’s my favorite time of year. Hunting, Thanksgiving, family, time off, hours in the woods… and this will be the first year I’ll miss it. I knew last year already that I’d probably miss it this year because I’d most likely be on the road truckin’. Which is exactly what I’m doing.
But just because I knew it was coming and expected it… accepted it and was fine with it… doesn’t mean it’s easy. I’m sad.
Hunting season is a solid week out of the year that my dad and I have our best bonding time. We tromp through the woods together and pick trees overlooking the best spots ever to set up our ladder stands, huff and puff as we drag them out way farther than we should’ve on a sled, and get all set up. Perfect spots – I mean the kind of spots where we’re going to see a ton of deer, of course. Sometimes we do, but usually we don’t. But we aren’t bothered much. It’s about so much more.
Then on Saturday morning – opening day – we get up well before light, drink coffee and eat breakfast. We bundle up, make sure our rifles are in the truck, our clips and thermos are full, and we have snacks to eat. We drive down the winding dirt road to our hunting grounds and walk into the pitch-black, dark woods together quietly. We part ways to our stands, which are usually set up fairly close to one another so we can help each other out if we get a deer, and after getting settled into our high perch in our trees, we sit stoically for hours. Waiting. In the silent, perfect woods.
Squirrels scurry up and down trees, chattering and flicking their tails violently when the discover we’re in their territory. Chickadees flutter past our faces, occasionally landing on our gun barrel. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of a white weasel, a fox, bobcat, and even… sometimes… a deer.
The woods can be silent and still, frozen and glittering, stinging the tip of my nose and numbing my cheeks. The cold sometimes seeps through my winter boots, freezing my toes until a shiver works its way through my entire body to a point when I need to get down out of my stand and wander a bit to warm back up. Sometimes it rains, making all kinds of noise through the woods, and sometimes big fluffy snowflakes silently flitter down all morning, freshening the forest floor with a blanket of bright, bluish-white. And sometimes it’s windy and you just hope it’s at your back so it’s not in your face, but you also hope it’s in your face so deer wandering within your line of vision can’t pick up your scent in the breeze. But whatever the weather brings us, we sit. We sit until after the sun sets and it’s hard to see.
After dark officially settles in we leave the forest and head back to the truck. After packing up we head out to meet up with my uncles and family friends, as well as other hunters for “the last drive” at a local bar to discuss what we’re seeing in the woods, who got what, tell jokes and drink beers.
Some years we get venison, and some years we don’t. It’s usually cold, and I freeze my butt off whether it’s 30 degrees or -30 degrees. But with freezing and all I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. Because this is the week I get to spend with my dad. And family. We eat hearty meals. Drink canned PBR. Sit in the woods for hours on end – watching, observing, thinking… and sometimes maybe even napping. My favorite part of all – walking next to my dad through the woods, guns slung over our shoulders. Getting a deer is a definite bonus, and we always try and hope to fill our tags. But even if we don’t, the time we spend together that week makes up for it by miles.
I’m missing it hard this year. I’ll be okay, and hope nobody feels too badly for me. That’s not why I’m writing. I knew it was going to be this way this year, and Adam and I are working at our plan. And we’re having fun doing it. But this first year is going to be the hardest when we have to let traditions slip for a while, knowing it’s not permanent. I just wanted to think about it more because hunting week makes me happy. Remembering all the details in writing brings me there for a while, and that also makes me happy. It’s not as good as actually being there, but it’s as close as I can get for now. I got this.
Good luck hunters. Good luck uncle Kenny, uncle Butch, Jim, Mikey and anyone else venturing out there in their blaze orange. Good luck dad. I love you. And yes, please use my gun and get a huge buck. I’m ready for a razzin’! :)
Tonight I love hunting season. You know that, though.