My brothers and I were among the less fortunate youth who grew up in New York State waiting until we were 16-years old to legally chase whitetails with a gun. Most states are far more accommodating to introduce youth to hunting deer at an earlier age – and I applaud New York for finally starting a youth mentoring program that gets kids hunting earlier.
In hindsight, that long wait years ago helped introduce me to archery and bowhunting as it afforded me the chance to get into the woods earlier. For that I am thankful.
But one of the things I’m most thankful for during this time of year, is that my dad let me accompany him on a special Thanksgiving Day hunt when I was just a little tyke.
Each year, dad would keep me held in suspense until after the tryptophan had nestled itself deep into our bellies before he’d invite me to join him, my two older brothers and my uncles for an afternoon hunt on Thanksgiving Day. I’m sure there was a bit of constant nagging by me leading into those moments, but being able to join made me look forward to that day more than most others during a calendar year. During those years, the season opened on Monday and the it was only four-days old each time we went afield.
It mattered none that I walked and sat next to my dad unarmed. To me, I was hunting. And you needed to look no further than the solid blaze orange hunting suit I wore to know I dressed the part!
I think I was a solid good-luck charm too. Very few trips to the woods ended with someone not finding luck on those hunts.
Something about those Thanksgiving hunts planted something in me that no amount of drugs can tame. Perhaps it was the anticipation of the hunt alongside my family. It very well could have been the opportunity to share something with my dad. Maybe it was a reclamation of my hunter roots. It might have had something to do with my birthday always falling somewhere near that day. More than likely, though, it was a combination of all of those things.
Regardless, the passion for chasing whitetails that those early hunts instilled in me runs deeper than the roots of a century-old oak. For that, to me, is something to be thankful for.
Cat Tales: With a little boy expected to join the world any day now, this marks one of only a handful of years that I’m unable to hunt with my family on our farm in NY during the opening days of gun season in New York. Obviously, it’s a lot easier to take when the reason includes such an awesome blessing as having a child enter our family. There will be many more “openers” in the future – and I look forward to sharing them with my kids. For starters, though, I can’t wait to take them on Thanksgiving! In fact, I’m likely going to take my little girl “hunting” (which will consist of a short walk in the woods) later this week here in NC. She has been asking to go all season!