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 10 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 of these tasks much more slowly than I did when I was young, but I’m thankful that I’ve been blessed with all these years of fond memories.
As I approach 72 years old, it’s 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 60 years of spending time outdoors, I’ve 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 50’s. It was a windy morning and a large fox squirrel was perched on a high branch of an oak tree in the forest 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 gun case with a locked cartridge case 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 hunting deer, 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 a bunch of channel catfish before dark for a fish fry. I have searched for this lake on maps, but I 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 up on buckshot for my .22. When the 14,000 chickens were sold, he would turn me loose with my Pokey rat terrier 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 52 rats from empty chicken 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 1960s, the number of squirrels was nowhere near what it is today. Once the white-tailed deer blessing 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 opportunities to hunt them abound. May this lifestyle last forever!
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Get in touch with outdoor writer Luke Clayton through his website www.catfishradio.org