Into the Outdoors - Opening Day

You know, I can hardly believe that it’s December already. It’s almost as though we had no summer at all. I don’t know where it went. Anyway, this is the first column after the opening of yet another deer season here in Pennsylvania. The first day was, of course, Saturday, November 28th.

Before Gary Alt and his cohorts at the Game Commission ruined it, the opening day of deer season (then buck season) ranked right up there for many of us as a holiday. When you went to bed on Sunday night, you felt that you had a real chance of getting a buck the next day. It was that way for many, many years. Then the Game Commission decided to “fix” it, even though it was not broken. Although the idea of antler restrictions is subject to a lot of contradictory proof, along with the drastically increased killing of does, the policies continue. Despite their devastating effects, however, there are other differences between now and those halcyon days of my youth and young adulthood.

My best friend and I often discuss the concept of life as a baseball game, a game in which we are in the late innings. Just as with the national pastime, things get a bit different after the seventh inning stretch. There was a time when I could sit out in the open for an entire brutally cold day. This is no longer the case. Now, I either have to move around or confine myself to a heated stand. The seventy two year-old bones just won’t take the cold anymore. If I sit still in the open for too long, my feet and hands go numb, and I start to shiver. That just won’t do. Years ago, I would often hunt all morning, then go home for lunch. After lunch, I would go back out again. I still do that sometimes, but, a lot of the time, I don’t go back out. Instead, I doze on the couch in my hunting clothes until I get up the ambition to shower and bag it for the day. I used to laugh at the “old guys” who did that.

In my younger days, there was no hill too steep to climb. One of note is “Old Baldy” a particularly steep hill near Hallton. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times my friends and I climbed it, on nothing more than the hope that that was where the deer were. Sometimes we were right and sometimes we were wrong, but the steep climb meant nothing. Nowadays, I have some serious doubts as to whether I could even climb that peak over the course of an entire day. The lowlands hold much more appeal. Dragging a deer out has also become much more of a task. I used to be contemptuous of hunters who used a four-wheeler to drag out a deer. Nowadays, it makes perfect sense.

If all of this sounds rather depressing, it’s not meant to be. It is just a reflection of the natural progression of things. I still enjoy deer hunting, but I do not like to go alone, as I used to. I just can’t totally trust the old body anymore. I no longer get upset if I don’t get a deer, but I’m still as happy as ever if I do. Those wonderful memories of yesteryear keep me going. When you come right down to it, memories are perhaps the most precious things about the hunting life. Even when you are old and achy, venturing afield after the wily whitetail brings them flooding back. Even if you don’t get out, the memories are there and alive.

As this is being written, there is no snow, and the ground is green/brown, and the temperature is warm. Actually, these days, I sort of prefer it this way, as opposed to the bitter cold.. Have a great rest of the season.

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