As the 2009 New York gun season approaches this Saturday, I’m reminded of how my excitement for that first day has changed throughout the years.
During my elementary school years, it took everything I could to make it through the school day (the season opened then on a Monday) in order to race home and check with my mom if she had heard from my father. On more occasions than not, my dad had taken a buck on that first day – a feat I couldn’t wait to get to school the next day to brag to my classmate and early hunting nemesis (and later hunting comrade) Andrew Harris.
Shortly thereafter, my opening day anticipation changed to checking on the success of both my dad and oldest brother, Mike. It was about this time, that I looked very much forward to Thanksgiving and the first Saturday as those were days that my dad usually let me tote along as bystander of the hunt. After his rookie season, Mike also decided to allow his little brother to tag along with him in the woods. It was many of those initial trips with him that set the foundation for my hunting future. My middle brother, Doug, would start hunting a couple years after Mike and the three of us would start sharing the woods togehter.
Because you needed to be 16 to hunt Big Game with a gun in New York, my early teen years focused very much on the archery season. Having a leg up on taking a deer made it much easier to sit among the older hunters at the poker table in deer camp. During these years, I got to tag along, but toting a shotgun had to wait.
Then came my own rookie season. As if The Big Guy upstairs had it all planned out, my birthday falls right smack dab in the heart of deer hunting. It was with my 16th birthday that my dad surprised me with a new shotgun the day before the gun opener. After practicing for months with his first gun (Ithaca Deerslayer 20 ga.),I was shocked beyond belief when the new shotgun was in the leg of my new hunting suit (where I stored the trusty Ithaca) upon arrival at deer camp. A few Remington Sluggers out of the barrel and I was ready to roll.
My primary focus on the gun opener in those early years was laser targeted on success. While my brothers, uncles, cousins, etc. all relished in the camaraderie that came with deer camp, my priority was on making sure I did everything I could to take a deer.
It’s amazing how a few years and a notch or two in that leather sling will change that perspective. I’m fortunate in that I spend many hours a year with a bow in tow to get my ultimate deer hunting fix. And I still enjoy taking to the woods with a gun. But the primary reason of anticipation for the gun season now is the opportunity to catch up with family and friends, share stories about the buck that got away or the IOUs written on napkins from poker games past.
That is what the gun opener is about.