Anyway, the sun was beginning to peek through the trees and I could see things materializing out of the darkness in the side yard, through the window. I quickly finished dressing and went downstairs to find Mom fully dressed and cooking something hardy for us to eat. We always ate a hardy breakfast before trudging out through the morning chill to our favorite stands, where we would stage a vigil of determination against the elements as we awaited a chance to bring home much needed venison for the table. Times being what they were...wild game was about all most families could afford to adorn their table these days. Dad worked an entire week to bring home a meager sixty-five dollars in those days, which was about the usual wage...but it never went far enough to cover all the expenses.
Hunting season afforded us the opportunity to place good food on the table, allowing Dad’s paycheck to go for other necessary things and it always came just before the holidays, which was a welcome thing. Many times, if it hadn’t been for the deer and small game we were fortunate enough to have for the table, we would not have been able to have such a nice holiday and Christmas dinner.
Once finished with breakfast, I wished Mom and Dad good luck for the days hunt, grabbed my old “punkin’ Slinger” and was off to the corner of the yard, where I slid through the weeds and bushes, slipping into the timber of the large public area called state game lands No. 176. Most folks call it the Barrens or Scotia. Mom and Dad historically head straight for the lands of Harbison- Walker, a vast tract of land owned by an old, defunct brickyard who mined clay from the surrounding property to produce their bricks. They went out of business, many years ago, but held the property and never posted it, so the public could use it for whatever purpose they wished. Many people hiked and had picnics there thought-out the summer months and many hunted there or did cross country skiing in the winter months. It was our playground when I was growing up. We fished in the old ponds and swamps...ice skated on them in the winter and hunted around them in the fall. The brickyard land bordered the state game lands, giving us a playground that stretched for miles and miles in all directions, so living there had its definite advantages!
When I slipped through those bushes and tree limbs, stepping into the woods of the game lands, I could feel a change coming over me. It was as if I was transformed from a regular twelve year old kid, into a young Indian brave on a mission of hunting for food...actually reflecting my Indian heritage...as I became extremely aware of the world around me, seeing and hearing everything much more intently than before. I was a warrior hunter, fulfilling my hunting instincts, which were past down from my forefathers. I saw deer tracks in leaves that eluded others, found scat along trails and saw deer hair on limbs and under leaves... I had the uncanny ability to find deer which were bedded down far ahead of me in the trees and brush before they knew I was there. Many times I watched deer as they lay under pine boughs, chewing their cud, watching their back trail. I could easily scope them as they lay there and pick out a buck with ease.
I covered many, many miles in those days of my youth...never thinking of the long drag I would have if I had shot a buck that far away from home. I was young, strong and adventurous in those days and didn’t worry about such things. I would travel a good four miles by foot through the barren landscape of the game lands or the brickyard land in search of that elusive buck venison for our table. Many times I would hoist a buck up and onto my shoulders...much as they did in the old movies, eliminating the drag, which made covering the distance to home much quicker and easier. In those days, you didn’t have to worry about someone shooting you for a deer. We were all hunters in those days...we had scruples. We would not take horrendously long shots that were impossible, just because it was a buck. Many times I let a huge racked deer go on it's way unacosted, because I could not assure that I could drop it with a clean shot and we were taught to insure every shot was well placed in a target that we intended to shoot. If you do these things religiously, without reserve, how could you ever shoot another person by mistake? Know your target, know where to place the shot and let it pass unchallenged if you cannot guarantee a clean kill after fulfilling these two criteria.
Anyway, on that given day, I enjoyed the walk and frequent stops, to sit on a log or stump and watch the world around me. I enjoyed this part more than the hunting and the slaying of my quarry was the most despised part of the entire hunting ordeal. Unfortunately, there was no better way to supply meat for the dinner table in those days, so we had to resort to this out of necessity. I did however relish the days afoot in the wilderness when I saw animals and enjoyed the fresh air and scenery without seeing my intended quarry to return to the dinner table.
In later years, I was able to hunt with both my mother and father, which printed an indelible memory in my mind; one that allows me to return to those days, to be with them, in my mind...much like writing this story. I no longer hunt these beautiful creatures because our table is filled with food which allows me to simply watch them and enjoy them in their natural surroundings. I still want to go hunting and take Vick along to enjoy the experience. The difference now will be the type of shot I take. Now it will be a shot using a zoom lens and a multiplier on the end of our D50 Nikon camera. I can still bring the trophy home and hang it up for all to admire...............
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