The end of January marks the end of deer season, and it’s always met with various receptions in our home.
My reaction is always based on how successful the season was.
If it was a good season, I’m content to reflect on the adventures and eager to welcome longer days and warmer weather.
After less successful seasons I find myself wishing there was just a little more time and wondering why the season can’t at least extend a couple of weeks into February.
My wife Jamie’s reaction is consistent. She sees the end of deer season as a reason to celebrate. Now there is at least hope that I will tackle the list of jobs around the house she has been compiling.
And I’ll actually be there on Saturday mornings when she wakes up, and I’ll usually already have the coffee ready.
She can also take comfort in the fact that we won’t be converting the kitchen into an amateur deer processing station for awhile, and there won’t be bags of deer taking up space in the refrigerator until we get around to butchering it.
She is remarkably supportive of our efforts, but she can’t hide the fact that she’s glad when it’s over.
But these days there is a benefit to deer season that she had not previously experienced. Except for those early morning on really cold days, I usually take at least one of the kids with me. Sometimes I take all three. That gives her a rare opportunity to relax. For a mother of three who works hard and is involved in numerous other activities in the community, a chance to relax and just enjoy a little peace and quiet is a valuable thing.
My brother Eric also has three kids who are close in age to mine so we have taken a new approach to hunting now that our children want to participate. We used to hunt almost exclusively out of climbing stands or ladder stands, but box stands have become more common now.
As the smaller children got bigger and wanted to go, the stands got bigger too. Eric’s oldest son killed his first deer this season, and my oldest son took the only deer that is in our freezer this year.
I didn’t even fire my gun this year. Normally that would have been depressing to me, but I have a different definition of success this year.
Our goal for this year was for my oldest son James to kill his first buck. That didn’t happen, but only because he chose to let some smaller bucks walk.
Of course he hoped that he was going to get a bigger buck later in the season, but instead he learned that success sometimes takes a lot of effort and it’s never guaranteed. That’s a valuable lesson, and it’s one that he not only seems to understand, he seems to embrace it. That will serve him well.
I also got to teach my daughter Elsie about gun safety with her pink Red Ryder bb gun. My Dad was very serious about teaching us gun safety, and he made us treat our bb guns just like they were high powered rifles. By the time I graduated to a “real” gun, I didn’t even have to think about things like engaging the safety after taking a shot or never pointing the barrel toward anyone.
I am committed to doing the same thing for my children. All of the good times in the world wouldn’t be worth one single accident.
I also got to hear a lot of interesting observations from my first hunting partner who not only packed a pink gun, but also had pink hunting boots.
And finally I had the experience of taking my four-year-old son Jase.
Successful deer hunting requires you to be still and be quiet for long periods of time. I don’t know any four-year-olds who could put either of those skills on their resume, and Jase is no exception.
But he got better as the season progressed, and I introduced him to my trick of always having a paperback book in my pocket for when I get restless. His books are still mostly pictures, and we usually had to bring a backpack with several books in it. There’s never a bad time to encourage your kid to enjoy books.
Another deer season has come and gone, and although it was the first one in many years that I didn’t kill a deer, it was one of my most enjoyable seasons to date.
Many of my favorite memories of my father are of times spent with him outdoors. Those were some of the happiest times of my life.
I hope that my children will feel the same day one day.