OUTDOORS: Back in the day | Sports

Sitting in a tree stand last week trying to harvest a large whitetail deer that I had seen on my tracking cameras, my mind began to go back to my many years as an outdoorsman.

How many times since I was ten years old, back in 1960, had I sat in a deer stand waiting for the “big one”? How many hours had he spent in the woods chasing game?

Could you calculate the approximate number by estimating how many hunts per year and the average time spent on my feet on each hunt? I soon gave up on this idea and lost myself in thought.

At this stage in my hunting career, I am very grateful to be able to climb a tree or take a deer out of the woods; I have much younger friends who can’t.

Granted, I do both tasks much more slowly than I did when I was young, but I am grateful to have been blessed with all these years of fond memories.

As I approach seventy-two years old, it’s not obvious that my days of hunting in the trees or taking animals out of the woods are numbered, but being the eternal optimist, I’m making plans to hunt from the ground within a decade!

Looking back on sixty years of spending time outdoors, I have seen a lot of changes. I thought it would be fun to recap some of the things I remember from days gone by when I was a snapper roaming the woods of Red River County.

I REMEMBER using my little JC Higgins .22 single shot rifle on my first squirrel hunt with my dad in the late fifties. It was a windy morning and a large fox squirrel was perched on a high branch of an oak tree in the woods behind our house. I timed the swing of the branch perfectly and shot the squirrel square in the head. In hindsight, it was a lucky break, but one I’ll never forget.

I REMEMBER riding a Greyhound bus from Dallas to Houston when I was about 13 years old to hunt deer in Waller County with ‘Poppa Dinkins’. I walked into the Dallas terminal with my trusty 30/30 in a soft-weapons case with a locked ‘projectile’ box inside. The driver informed me that I would have to store my rifle in the trunk. No one gave me a second look as I walked through the terminal with the rifle. Now, can you imagine doing this today?

I REMEMBER my dad mail ordering a British 303 rifle when I was a kid. In a couple of weeks the postman delivered the rifle. When I told one of my grandsons this recently, he looked at me in disbelief. Oh, he had read about the lack of regulations in the past, but I guess he never thought that his old grandfather really lived in that time.

I REMEMBER my first real deer hunt in northern Red River County. My brother-in-law and one of his friends invited me to join them. He had an old Mossberg .410 bolt-action shotgun loaded with rifled bullets, which wasn’t the best choice for deer hunting, but it was all he had and he was very proud of it. I was placed at the base of a pine tree with low branches and told to climb up and stay put until dark; “We’ll go find you” were my only instructions. I’m sure I was squirming too much for a sane deer to go near that pine tree, but I was actually hunting deer and felt like I’d been on safari in the wilds of Africa.

I REMEMBER every seven weeks when my dad sold the chickens he raised, we would load up the 1950 International Truck with longlines, tarps, cooking gear and bait and head to southeastern Oklahoma near Idabel to camp and fish for a couple of days in a lake we call ‘Long Log Lake’ somewhere near Idabel. Our goal was to set the ‘lines’ and catch loads of channel catfish before dark for a fish fry. I have looked for this lake on maps but can only find one lake called ‘Long Lake’ in the vicinity. I want to take a day soon and go back to explore the area.

I REMEMBER my dad kept me stocked with ‘rat shots’ for my .22. When the 14,000 chickens were sold, he would turn me loose with my rat terrier Pokey to decrease the number of rats moving from the woods to the chicken coops to eat the spilled feed. One night, my brother-in-law and I, with the help of Pokey, removed a total of 52 rats from the empty coops. This remained our record for several years!

I REMEMBER Mr. Guthrie lent him a big black and tan hound to go squirrel hunting. The dog was well trained but was getting a bit “long in the teeth”. He made up in experience what he might have lacked in perseverance. Squirrel hunting was still fun, but nothing like hunting with a dog when you went into the woods knowing you’d find squirrels. In the sixties, the number of squirrels was nowhere near what it is today. Once the blessing of the whitetail deer occurred, the interest of many hunters shifted from small game to deer. It’s a shame today’s younger hunters don’t know about squirrel hunting. Wild squirrels in the woods are very different animals from the domesticated squirrels that many of us find in city parks or in our yards.

Yes, I have seen many changes in the outdoors since my childhood days. I can truly say that we are currently living in the ‘good old days’ when it comes to deer hunting. Deer abound throughout the state and hunting opportunities are plentiful. May this lifestyle last forever.

Our weekly outdoor show, “The Life of an Athlete,” is now available on Carbon TV. You can download the network on ROKU or watch on your device at www.carbontv.com. Get in touch with outdoor writer Luke Clayton through his website www.catfishradio.org.