Opening Day

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That first day of deer season is about as much anticipated and looked forward to as is Christmas day or Thanksgiving.

Opening day has a special place in a hunters heart that nonhunters will never understand.  To them they think it is only all about the killing of a deer.  If that is your idea of opening day or of deer season in general then you missed the bus somewhere along the way.  You got off at the wrong stop on your journey as an outdoorsman or woman.   

Twas the night before deer season.  That has a familiar ring to it doesn’t it?  And quite a good one.  For millions of American hunters the night before opening day is a sleepless one.  Excitement and anticipation takes hold of even the most veteran outdoorsman.  Visions of big bucks with tall tines and wide racks run through their minds.  Memories of past hunts with dads, sons, daughters and grandparents flood the mind and bring a tear to the strongest of eyes.

My fondest memories of hunting deer in the Pine timbers of East Texas don’t really even involve the killing of a deer and if they do the actual kill takes a back seat to the experience that lead to it.  The days spent freezing in a tree stand or standing by an old logging road waiting a deer to pass by are memories chiseled into my mind and they shaped who I became much as the hands of an artist molds clay.  My father waking me hours before dawn and drinking coffee with the men folk.  Wiping the frost off of the seat of an old rickety 2×4 lean up stand so my rea rend wouldn’t get wet.  Bacon and coffee with dear friends and loved ones after a morning hunt.  These are the things I remember most about hunting.

My son is in college now and my daughter is married and about to give me my first grandchild.  My dad is up in years and enjoys sitting on the banks of the Sabine rather than in a stand these days.  Days afield with them are few now as their lives have to take their own path.  But I have dozens of opening day memories to reflect upon and smile about. 

I spent this weekend with my son in a tent in the woods.  Nothing fancy just he and I then we were joined by a life long friend and his son in camp for a pot of coffee and a bit of deer heart and tinder loin on the grill.  Couldn’t help but sit quietly and drink it all in as they all sat laughing and talking.  I wanted to remember that moment forever.  As I watched the smiles and heard the jokes I sipped on my coffee and reflected on how many of those campfires and coffees I had shared with my dad and all of his friends.  Some of which are no longer with us.  That is what its all about.  That is what opening day is and what it means.. There is so much more to it than a bullet and a shot.  Its about love.  Its as much about love as it is anything.  Love of family and friends.  The love of the outdoors and nature.  The love of God and the understanding that we should be in awe of his creation. 

I will leave you with a line from one of my favorite movies.

“life is like a finger pointing the way to heaven.  Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all the heavenly glory”.  Don’t focus on the kill or you will miss the journey getting there.

Story by Jeff Stewart

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