The more I hear hunters talk about deer season each year, the more my father comes to mind. He was such an avid hunter, and thus his favorite time of year. He would leave very early on Sunday morning so Mom would drive us to church that day instead of Dad. She never seemed too pleased about that.
This is my dad! I am not sure why this is the only photo I can find because he went hunting every year and and bagged a deer each time. But it’s the only photo we have of him with his deer antlers. In fact, Dad saved his antlers and I think you can find various ones from past years at the bottom of the photo.
Here he looks like he recently returned home from hunting camp. He’s a bit disheveled and smoking his pipe. But he’s holding the rack he probably got that year and standing in front of the woodstove. showing off his trophy.
Being a deer hunter combined lots of his favorite skills–tramping through the woods, climbing trees, hanging out with the guys, his eagle eye, and leaving with meat to eat through the winter and a trophy for his time!
There seems to be something that happens to men when deer season comes along. They seem happier and more independent; they have already gone to “their camp” long before they actually step foot outside the door. They are mentally preparing for their hot stews and chilies, the desserts, the peanuts and all the other ‘man food’ they chow down on. They envision the card playing, the many, many stories they’ll share, and early mornings as they crunch through the crusted over snow to find the first tale-tell sign of a deer…
The night before Dad would leave, I used to hear him downstairs in the basement, rifling through the drawers of his homemade workbench. He would pull out boxes of bullets, and cartridges of equipment. He’d call out to my mom and ask her if this shirt or that was clean. He would gather up his snow pants–but I don’t suppose that is the name men use for them; maybe that goes under the category of ‘hunting gear’–and heavy jackets, plus he’d always have a hat of some kind. He’d clean out his rifle (which he always kept in his very nice, homemade gun cabinet). All these sounds lent an air of happiness to the house, and I remember feeling very excited. Would he come back with a deer?
Dad used to go hunting with his sidekick, Bud Matson, mostly and whoever happened to be with Bud. Bud and my dad went way back. Not only did they hunt together each year, they drag-raced, went on fishing trips, and went to beer gardens in their less tame days. Bud and my dad lived the life!
Life was good for dad during those hunting trips. He’d never be gone more than three or four days, but he would come back with a buck without fail. “I get ’em from the same tree every year” he’d grin, “eighteen years in a row.” I take it that he liked climbin’ that tree. I guess it was his lucky tree. I’m sure that he owned a good pair of binoculars as well. Dad always combined his skills to get what he wanted accomplished so none of us were surprised, and I think we were really quite proud of him when he came back.
I’d say, “Dad caught another deer this year.” and one of my brothers would groan,”You don’t catch deer. You shoot them!” (Well, I don’t do either). I would glare, and my mother would tell us to ‘settle down.’ I always felt sorry for the deer and had to prepare myself mentally because dad would hang them upside down from the tree house. I forget why he did that but I am sure you hunters can tell me exactly why that is necessary – maybe to let the blood drain out…?
I remember my mother hated venison but as a dutiful wife, cooked it dutifully. The rest of us loved it, even though I averted my eyes when I saw that poor deer hanging. We ate venison for months; Dad even cooked it up sometimes. Meatballs. Meatloaf. Deer roast. Dad was also quite generous and would give quite a bit away to his friends who were not quite so lucky to bag a deer.
Once my brothers came of age, they joined him at the hunting camp. Though, Mike, my older brother’s demeanor resembled mine. Very gentle-spirited, Mike did not like shooting deer so when he went, he really didn’t put his heart into it. I think he enjoyed the camaraderie of the men, though, so he would go for that. My younger brother hunts to this day so I am sure that he waited for those cabin experiences with my dad with a fervor.
Looking back on my memories, I did like to hear about my father’s skills in the woods. But I liked to see him unpack his gear more, and get ready for the winter ahead. Dad would be around a whole lot more in the cold months ahead!