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Neosho Daily News - Neosho, MO
  • Deer season: A date to remember

  • As the sun slowly began to rise over the horizon, the still sound of the woods in all directions was slowly replaced by the sounds of Mother Nature awakening. Birds began to quietly sing. A hoot owl in the distance played his mellow tune. Squirrels began to emerge from their nests to scavenge for nuts and drive the living heck out of my nerves.
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  • As the sun slowly began to rise over the horizon, the still sound of the woods in all directions was slowly replaced by the sounds of Mother Nature awakening. Birds began to quietly sing. A hoot owl in the distance played his mellow tune. Squirrels began to emerge from their nests to scavenge for nuts and drive the living heck out of my nerves.
    One that does not live in this setting 24 hours a day can only imagine this is how it goes every morning in the wild. Then …
    BOOM! POW! CRACK, CRACK, CRACK. Guns ablaze.
    The singing birds fly away in a frenzy while the hoot owl trails closely behind. Those stinking squirrels, however, continue to drive me batty.
    This is perhaps the most wonderful feeling to guys like me. It’s deer season.
    There’s nothing quite as refreshing as waking up at 4 a.m. and climbing 15 feet up a tree in complete darkness in order to catch that first slice of opening morning in your deer stand. Sound crazy? You should try it.
    If you haven’t noticed, distant sounds of booms and cracks means the 2012 Missouri firearms deer season is underway. From now through Nov. 20, thousands of Missouri rifle hunters will don their blaze orange and hit the woods in search of backstraps and deer jerkey.
    While the goal for most hunters is to fill his tags and, therefore, his freezer full of fresh venison, most will likely tell you the hunt isn’t all about the kill. No, there’s more to this non-official holiday than meets the eye. For most of us, there’s more to it than slinging 30-30 Winchester rounds at everything that moves.
    Nov. 18, 2000. That’s a date I’ll forever remember. It stays engrained in my mind along with family birthdates and my anniversary. It’s the day I harvested my first deer. It’s the day I learned what hunting was truly about.
    My father got me hooked on hunting from an early age. He’d often allow me to tag along on his hunts when I was still too young to know what “sit still” meant. I fell in love with the woods immediately, and the idea of bagging a trophy whitetail soon followed.
    I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to shoot one of Dad’s guns and put a big buck on the wall, I’d tell myself. I constantly imitated the professional hunters on his old VHS deer videos.
    Nov. 17, 2000. This is the date that changed my life as a hunter. I was finally old enough to take dad’s 30-30 out by myself and begin my quest for Dan Fitzgerald status. I’d just turned 15 and had yet to kill a deer.
    Page 2 of 3 - As the light began to fade and the sun sank over the hill I, seated on the ground, peered around my tree to spot a trophy buck walking the fence line behind me. Slowly I turned, gripped the gun tight, took aim and … missed. I was shattered. The big buck of my dreams was right there and I blew it.
    As you can imagine, I moped the entire way home that night. Fully prepared to sulk about my misfortune to the rest of the family when we finally reached our destination, I was hit with news much more devastating and important. My great-grandmother, a woman I looked up to dearly, took a grave turn for the worse in her courageous battle with cancer.
    We immediately rushed over to her home to see her one last time. We lost a great woman that night.
    Again, I sulked. Cried. The selfish attitude I’d displayed over missing my trophy whitetail was replaced with the realization that life was more important than shooting a deer. The last thing I could think about, even though I was still standing there in my camouflage, was some stupid deer.
    Perhaps my parents saw something that night. Dad asked me if I wanted to go hunting the next morning. I couldn’t stand the thought. How could we? But he insisted it would be good for me. It would allow me to get away from things for a while and clear my head.
    So there I sat, bundled against my tree the next morning, Nov. 18, 2000. My mind was blank. I’m not sure I ever looked up the first few hours of that hunt. But then, out of the blue, a commotion startled me. I trained my eyes forward as three adult does came charging directly toward me. I froze. They froze. Ten-yards away. They never flinched.
    As I scattered for my rifle I had to have sounded like a cook digging for a saucepan at the bottom of the cabinet. Bump. Clank. I was a trainwreck. Still, those does never flinched. I trained my shaking rifle towards the biggest one and squeezed the trigger.
    There was something about that day that has never escaped me. I felt like I had learned the true meaning of what it was like to be a deer hunter: A life lesson about greed and pity. I definitely learned a lesson that day about appreciating what you have and being thankful for what’s in front of you.
    I take that attitude with me to the stand each and every time. It’s been almost 12 years since that sunny, brisk morning, but I still hunt within 50 yards of the spot that forever changed my outlook as a hunter. Every time I climb my tree I’m reminded of that day.
    Page 3 of 3 - I think all hunters have a story like that to share. We all share a common bond that’s hard to describe to a non-hunter. Why do we love it? We know, but you have to experience it to understand.
    For the past week or so the Daily News has published pictures of youth hunters and the deer they’ve harvested this season. I flash a big smile every time I see a new one in my email.
    You see there’s a story painted inside every one of those pictures. We’re looking at a bond forming in every frame. A dad, mother, sister, brother, aunt or uncle are often captured in these photos, and it’s obvious they’re just as happy as the youth holding his trophy.
    We can’t see them, but the person taking the photo is beaming with joy. That excitement may be lost on the child, but to the adult it’s about the lessons learned and the story that will come from the adventure.  
    My dad recently let me take his old 30-30 home. It’s now under my care. Sure, there are fancier guns I could pursue. But the sentimental feeling in the grip of that old lever-action just wouldn’t be there if I bought a new gun. It’s not visible, but there’s an inscription somewhere on the stalk of that gun that reads: Nov. 18, 2000.

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