Memories of a Thanksgiving Day deer hunt
As families gather to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, one activity that’s often part of the celebration is deer hunting. For this writer, the Thanksgiving deer hunt is a revered tradition and I have never, ever missed a Thanksgiving morning in the deer woods since I began hunting as a teenager.
The tradition has always been to squeeze in a few deer drives before the afternoon meal. And much of the after-dinner talk over a football game often centers on deer hunting – even among family members who aren’t hunters.
In the early 1970s, even before my brothers and I were old enough to go with them, my dad and uncles ventured out one Thanksgiving morning only to come right back as a monstrous snowstorm had prevented road travel. Later that same decade, my uncle Jim Ladd, who was a heck of a deer hunter in his day, downed a massive Adirondack 10-point buck on the holiday. I still have the antlers from that deer.
During my college years in the 1980s, coming home for Thanksgiving was the highlight of my deer season as it would be the period when I would have the most time to hunt. It was often, and still is, one of the few times I’d get to hunt with my brother, who maintains a very busy work schedule.
Over time, as my dad and uncles either passed away or aged out of hunting, our hunting party shrunk and there were a few years when I hunted alone on Thanksgiving morning. But things have changed in the past dozen years or so, and our party has grown once again. Thanksgiving Day seems to be a magnet for those in the family who only get to go hunting a few times a year, and they often bring their kids along , too. This makes me wish every hunting day was Thanksgiving Day.
Having a bigger-than-usual hunting party can make things interesting for those of us who plan the deer drives. But we figured it out, and just last year bagged not one, but two bucks on Thanksgiving morning. We were a little late getting out of the woods, which stirred the ire of those cooking the Thanksgiving turkey. My wife, however, knows I will not forego hunting on Thanksgiving and plans accordingly by scheduling the family dinner later in the afternoon.
This all worked out perfectly a few years ago. Thanksgiving Day was the last day of my two-week hunting vacation. My body was tired from days and days of tough hunting and I even questioned getting out of bed that morning. But I did, and there were six of us in the hunting party.
I set out the watchers on the second drive, and while sneaking into the last watch, I found fresh buck rubs. Less than an hour later, I heard the unmistakable sound of a running deer on cold, dry leaves. Soon enough, the buck was in the peep sights on my Winchester .30-30, and three shots later a fine 8-pointer lay at my feet. All of that hard hunting was worth it, and I couldn’t have been more thankful. I hope a scene like that plays out for all of us before deer season ends in a few weeks.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!