Change is not always bad.
As creatures of habit, we sometimes hate change. But sometimes it’s not all bad. For me, this was my 46th renewal of the unique ritual we call our annual deer hunting seasons. For some strange reason I have always been attracted to this special time of year. The weather is comfortable, scenery stunningly beautiful and an opportunity to hunt one of our nation’s greatest game animals. All of this within a short drive from home.
In the very beginning success was measured by just seeing a deer. Buck or doe didn’t matter. Every once in a while I may hear a distant shot. This usually sent me into a daydream wishing I was the one lucky enough to pull the trigger, even though they may have only been shooting at a tin can.
From the very first time I became an active participant in the deer hunting ritual, my life has changed forever. But even when I began my deer hunting career with unbridled enthusiasm and excitement, those first several seasons saw no success. Back then it was illegal to take does and even catching a glimpse of a buck was cause for celebration. I can still remember darkness falling on the final days those first few years and the disappointment that came with it, knowing it would be another year of not taking a deer.
But that has changed. If anything, that lack of success those first few seasons strengthened my resolve and that dedication soon paid off. In 1976 I took a fat six-point buck with the first shot I ever fired during deer season. Thankfully I had my driver’s license which allowed me to parade that little buck around town making a tour of family and friends. Today, that small buck still graces my office wall. Even though it is now surrounded by larger specimens, no memory is more special.
Looking back on all those years makes me appreciate just how tough deer hunting can be at times. That too has changed a bit. When I began taking to the field, deer numbers were nothing like today. To be honest, I’m not so sure Indiana’s total deer population wouldn’t equal our current harvest numbers. Thanks to funding provided by outdoor minded sportspeople, deer now thrive in every corner of the Hoosier state. So when our hunting party gathers for opening weekend it’s not a matter of will anyone tag a deer, but whom.
Another memory I will never forget is just how bitterly cold it got. Warmth was decided on how many pairs of socks you could wear and still squeeze your feet into boots. It seemed being “windproof” wasn’t even thought of and it didn’t take long before the biting breeze sent you back to the truck, regardless of how many layers covered your body. Thankfully todays clothing has seen improvements that can for the most part, turn away the cold. Speaking of advancements, I really like headlamps with colored lenses and enough white light to illuminate the entire woods if you so choose. Digital cameras are something else I enjoy to document memories.
But to be honest, the favorite change I have encountered is my family. From the start I usually hunted alone or with anyone who would go. Then my partner became my brother Jim. Today that has grown to include not only Jim, but my two adult sons, son-in-law and nephew, the “boys” as I still call them collectively.
Time has a way of providing everyone with their own lives to live. So for most of the year I see the “boys” on holidays, special events or the times they stop by for a short visit. But the deer hunting season brings us together for extended periods. “I love this time of year more than anything,” said my son Joseph as we all left for the season opener. There was a concert of agreement from the rest of the clan. “I could care less if I get a deer but I really want the boys to tag one,” said my brother.
His (and my) wish was granted as nephew Cole collected a nice eight-point buck while son Anthony scored on a trophy 12 pointer. Yes a lot has changed since my deer hunting began, and for that, I am thankful.