One of the rights of passage for a lot of young males and some females is the annual preparation and participation in opening day of deer season. For some fortunate individuals this event can actually happen twice per year, once for bow season and once for gun season. If one is really lucky and lives in a state that separates black powder hunting from bow and gun seasons, they get to participate three times.
I am not one of those people against deer hunting! I have fond memories of participating in opening day and the entire season and I actually miss some of the camaraderie enjoyed with my family and friends. Some of my best non-hunting friends never understood why anyone would want to shoot bambi or his mother and father but they never experienced the thrill of opening day.
In my part of the country deer season runs for a month or more and allows one to properly prepare their deer camp or leased hunting area in advance. The preparation process begins in late August and early September when several trips to the woods are required to build tree stands. My father-in-law was such a perfectionist. We had to build tree houses that included sides for our deer stands. These structures were usually 4 X 6 feet and included chairs, an alcohol heater, and an empty can in the event mother nature beckoned.
Opening day morning began with breakfast at my father-in-law’s house and included myself and two brothers-in-law eating a massive breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage and grits at 2:30 in the morning. Some years we actually got some sleep. The breakfast was completed when my father-in-law would reach for a half-gallon of Jack Daniels and announce to all of us that it was now time to quote “be somebody” and we would all partake of a least one shot of sour mash bourbon. Well hell, when I was younger, drinking at 3 A.M. was accepted and besides we never loaded our high powered weapons until we arrived in the woods.
After a shot or two we would load up the vehicles with all manner of firearms, ammunition, food, liquor, beer, jackets, radios, chairs, toilet tissue, sleeping bags and anything else we would need for our day in the woods. All of this paraphernalia was loaded into the back of an aging Ford Falcon and then four or five of us would pile in the vehicle for the 45 minute ride to the woods. Upon arrival we would greet the hardy souls who had spent the night and then pour another shot or two just to be socialable. The obligatory lies would be told and around 5 A.M. the caravan would drive the final 15 minutes to the hunting area.
Prior to actually walking to the deer stands we had to apply doe urine to our shoes to cover our scents. Then, under the cover of darkness we would stealthily find our way to the aforementioned deer stands (tree houses) by shining our flashlights on the path and looking for red or green plastic tape we had tied on branches. I always had visions of Elmer Fudd walking to a deer stand on his tiptoes. (If you do not know Elmer Fudd look it up on Google.)
Were the truth told just about everyone went to sleep as soon as they climbed into the stand. There is always one exception and he or she usually got the first deer. Naturally the truth has never been told in a deer camp so there were many stories of massive 10-point bucks walking just behind some brush so that no one could get off a good shot. Whoever fired the first shot would wake up the rest of the fearless hunters and everyone would come down from their stands agreeing that all of the deer in the county were now long gone after the first shot was fired. This normally happens around 9:30 in the morning. Everyone would walk to the rally point and wait to see who had fired the shot. If the person who fired the shot had no carcass to display as a result of his shooting then the razzing and kidding would continue for the remainder of the season.
By 10:30 almost everyone was back at the camp telling lies, smoking cigars and drinking their beverage of choice. Two or three members of the hunting party would be cooking enough lunch to feed a third world country and someone would always have a portable TV with enough tin foil wrapped around the antenna to bring in some kind of signal. The ball game would be on and drinking, smoking and eating dominated the remainder of the day. Oh yeah, there were always one or two smart asses who wanted to hunt in the afternoon but we did not bother them if they did not bother us.
Deer hunting after all, ain’t brain surgery.