With the fall season finally in full turn, I've been thinking a lot about going hunting. I haven't been out much for several years and I really miss it. I grew up hunting and these cool mornings remind me of that all the time.
I remember those cool mornings when dad and I, or my old friend Joe and I would head off to the woods squirrel hunting. Even most fall afternoons after school were spent hunting. The leaves were gone, the air was cool, and I was most at peace sitting near a big hickory tree watching for bushytails. Most of the time it didn't even matter if I came home empty-handed. I was in the woods where I belonged. I never felt more at ease or at peace than those days sitting against a tree. When Joe was with me, the smell of Swisher Sweets cigars wafted through the woods with us. They became a tradition when I was around 16 and have been a constant ever since whenever I set foot in squirrel woods.
Soon the snow began to fly, and that meant one thing. Rabbit season. Dad and I would have already had the beagles out to run, but now that snow was on the ground, it was time. Rabbit season gave me some of the best memories of my life. I can walk (what's left of) those woods now, and almost every spot holds a memory. I remember the exact spot where I shot my first rabbit, I remember places where I would see dad smile. I remember tree's that always managed to get a squirrel, or a brush pile that always held a rabbit. For the most part, my life is written in the pages of trees somewhere in those woods. But now thanks to greed and logging, the woods are mostly gone. What was once acres of big open trees are now masses of thick underbrush thanks to the logging. The best rabbit areas are now acres of green briar and vines. Most of my favorite places are nearly inacessible.
I was always with dad, and usually surrounded by friends and family. My uncle Glen, my cousin Walt, my friend Joe and his dad Big Joe; they were always around during rabbit season. I miss them all. Glen passed away years ago. Walt quit hunting. I rarely speak to Joe anymore, and big Joe no longer hunts except for one deer each year in West Virginia. My dad can't even get out of the house now due to health issues. I'm pretty much alone in my hunting now, but I'm working on that with an old friend Bob who we've been back in contact with for the past year and a half or so.
Thanks to spending time behind the counter at a gun shop, I generally stay clear of public hunting land. Believe me, if you spent time meeting some of the folks that go to public land and hearing the horror stories, you may not either. But....now the time has come where I really have no choice. My old friend Joe called me over a month ago to tell me about a new public land just 20 minutes or so south of here. It's so new in fact, that it isn't listed on the state DNR website. I'm hoping that this may mean it isn't being hunted as much. *fingers crossed* Bob is going to get a map of it today, and we may head down on Saturday morning to check it out.
I'm still leary of public land, but I can't resist anymore. I *HAVE* to get out in the woods. I feel lost this time of year sitting here looking out the window. Maybe this place will be a great spot. Maybe I'll have some new squirrel woods. Maybe I'll bring home a few for the stew pot. And who knows, maybe it's time to start making new memories. I truly hope so......................
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