OPEN SEASON by Reavis Z. Wortham


D uring happier times in the 1980s, when we had a brand new deer lease, Wrong Willie and I were looking for a good place to set up a deer stand when we found evidence that someone else was hunting on the property.

Anyone who has ever paid for a lease has most likely wondered whether others were showing up during the week. We once had a lease out of Brownwood, Texas, that was constantly hunted by the owner’s family members, despite our contract that said otherwise. 

We met with Billy Roy one day to voice those concerns, and he shook his head at our stories.

“Someone hunted out of my stand last week while we were at work.” Wrong Willie toed the ground beside the gate. “I found a .30-06 hull on the floor.”

I had the same thing happen. “The problem I have is the same, Billy Roy, except whoever used my stand didn’t close the windows when they left, and it rained inside.”

The uncomfortable ranch owner leaned on his tailgate and sighed. “I’m sorry, boys. You’re most likely talking about my alkyholic brother’s adult step-son. They live across the fence, and that boy does whatever he wants. I’ll talk to them and see if we can get it stopped.”

He didn’t, though. The step-son continued to use our stands, and the last time it happened at the end of deer season, he didn’t close my stand up, again. When I returned in the spring, all three windows were open, and owls had nested in my very nice American Hunter stand.

We let the lease go, and I sold the nasty stand to the poor guys who came in after us. They left after a year. Something about someone shooting deer out of their stands…

A year later there was apparently a notice on some bathroom wall telling folks they could hunt our next lease outside of Jefferson, Texas. That thousand acres was as busy as a shopping mall parking lot. They shot deer from my tripod stand so often someone thought it was theirs and added some well-needed camouflage netting.

Then one weekend the whole stand disappeared, and we went hunting again, for another lease.

So when Wrong Willie and I were exploring the new, current lease, we came upon fresh materials to construct a tree stand. As he kicked around on the ground, I found a half-built platform in the fork of the live oak. “This is the Brownwood lease all over again,” I said.

Willie studied the boards stacked at the base of the tree. “These guys are slobs,” he said. “I can’t believe this. Here we are at the best place on the whole lease, and now we have this. I wanted to put a tree stand here.”

It was a perfect funnel between a line of trees forming a shelterbelt and a deep cut. The trail that came up from the lower creek bottom to our little rise was a natural pass between a big cedar and a boulder the size of my house. Deer and turkey tracks told us it was in constant use.

“These guys are pretty good, though. They recognize the perfect location.” I sighed. “Now, what do we do?”

I say we put all this in your truck and take it with us.” Wrong Willie glanced up into the tree. “Climb up there and knock that platform out.”

I studied the boards nailed crossways on the trunk to form a crude ladder. “I don’t think it’ll hold my weight.”

“Well, I’m not hunting here until we talk to the rancher and make him stop these guys,” he replied.

We were standing there, hands in our pockets, when we heard soft voices in the mesquites across the fence. “Willie, here they come.”

We stepped behind a thick cedar, waiting for the trespassers to arrive. After working with Willie for over thirty years, I knew he was primed for an altercation. His face reddened, and his stance told me someone was going to get a royal butt-chewing.

I only hoped the guys weren’t bigger than we were.

They weren’t. They stopped at the fence, and we could hear them climbing over. Nails in some kind of container rattled. I heard a whisper.

“See anyone?”


“Let’s get this finished.”

It was the perfect line for me to step out from cover. “You guys are finished….”

I stopped. Wrong Willie drew a sharp breath behind me.

Two frightened pre-teens almost bolted.

“Hold it!”

They stopped. I studied the kids. “What are you guys doing?”

Shaking in fear, the tallest, and I assumed the oldest, pushed a pair of glasses up on his nose and pointed at the tree. “Uh, we’re building a tree house.”

Wrong Willie frowned. “Tree house?”

“Yessir. There aren’t any good trees on our side of the fence, and we figured we’d build one here so we could watch the deer and turkeys go by.”

“You boys hunt?”

“Dad won’t let us have a rifle. We shoot birds with our BB guns, though.”

We studied the boys for a long moment, and I remembered the tree houses I’d built when I was their age, and the bazillion BBs Cousin and I fired from our air rifles. “I have a question for you two.”

They waited.

“If we help you finish this tree house, can I use it to shoot deer?”

The youngest beamed. “Yes sir!”

So for the rest of the day, Willie and I helped the boys build a treehouse/tree stand that would have made me sick with envy, when I was younger.

And I remembered those glorious days of kiddom.


Email Reavis Wortham at ContactUs@fishgame.com


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