New hunting season means new opportunity to pass along traditions


A Stanley Thermos topped off with Swiss Miss, a few fun-sized Snickers bars left over from my trick-or-treating haul and a knotted stick.

This was my arsenal during the first official deer hunt I shared with my father. He handled the firearm — I was simply along for the walk.

He chose a large oak tree in the middle of public hunting lands owned by the Montour Preserve, cleared a circumference of dried leaves as quietly as possible and placed a camouflage seat in the middle of the arc.

This, I soon found out, was where I would be spending most of that day.

Sitting. Watching. Listening.

Early morning darkness was quickly transformed by a bright sunrise. Squirrels scurried from tree to tree collecting acorns. They were so noisy on a forest floor carpeted with crispy fall foliage.

Small songbirds flittered from branch to branch, a few perching themselves just a few feet from me. The chickadees rattled off a few syllables and it was impossible to ignore the bright hues of cardinals, blue jays and one extremely curious goldfinch.

A chorus of crows provided the background music, interrupted every so often by the cackle of a pheasant and gobbling sequence from a nearby turkey. When it was least expected, the neighborhood pileated woodpecker would pierce the forest symphony with his shrill flight song.

So much to see, hear and experience — but not a single deer visited us that day. In fact, it would be a few years until we finally started seeing whitetails on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, the sights, sounds and overall magic of the outdoors dulled after my first time out. I grew increasingly impatient when the trophy buck I had dreamed about never showed up.

It took decades of hunting with dad and my brother until I realized just how fortunate we were each time out together — that the wonders I enjoyed my first time out at age 10 were really what hunting was all about.

Taking a moment to let life slow down. Enjoying the magic of nature. Sharing quality time with dad, even if it meant having to eat one of his signature liverwurst sandwiches with mustard once in a while. He passed away earlier this year, so the upcoming deer season feels a lot different this fall.

I’ve been fortunate enough to share the deer hunting experience with our son, and hopefully this year our oldest daughter will be ready for the first walk-in-the-woods-with-dad rite of passage.

Maybe I’ll take her to that same large oak tree that I sat near 25 years ago. We’ll watch the squirrels, listen to the crows and admire the brightly colored songbirds. We’ll share a Thermos of hot chocolate, a few leftover Halloween treats and savor the early morning sunrise.

It will be a great day, even if we don’t see a single deer — or a liverwurst sandwich.

~ by zaktansky on October 12, 2013.

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