This past Saturday was the opening day of Archery season in Wisconsin; this year is my 35th season. In those 35 years, I have not missed very many opening days. My original plan for opening day this year was to skip it and take the boat out. It was going to be nice weather, and I didn’t feel like dealing with the mosquitoes.
Those plans had changed about a week before! My Dad said he wanted to hunt together. He wanted to sit in the ground blind and be the camera guy. When your Dad asks to do something like that, you don’t pass on that opportunity!
I don’t think I have hunted with my Dad by my side since I have been 12 years old. Spending a few hours with just the two of us was going to be a memorable hunt. We had some high hopes that we would harvest a nice buck showing up on trail cameras.
The time in the ground blind went by fast; there wasn’t much to film that night, we did have a spike buck stare us down at about 12 yards, but that deer wasn’t what we were looking to harvest. We watched several does feed in the field. A small buck ran across the green field to feed on the beans; he walked off with the spike buck trailing behind. Watching that spike buck follow the basket rack buck reminded me of how my brothers and I would trail each other around in the woods seeking adventures.
We sat and talked about all sorts of random things that evening; the chuckle for the evening was when some crows landed in the field. I said to Dad, the other night in the bar, I heard some guys comment, “Ever notice how you never see a crow as roadkill; they must be really smart.” I told Dad that I wanted to say to them the crow-car joke.
It goes like this, Question: Do you know why a crow never gets hit on a road? Answer: It’s because one crow is always in the tree calling out “caw, caw, caw.” Yes, that is a Dad joke!
As Dad and I sat on the fenceline that evening, I looked across the field at the neighbor’s farm. What is now all fields used to be beautiful hardwoods when I was younger! Those trees were cut down years ago; those woods was where I first sat with my Dad. I wasn’t old enough to hunt, but he took me along on an early-season hunt.
My hunting career was crude compared to the equipment and gear available for the youth today. I wore rubber boots that Dad got from Land O’ Lakes, a zip-up camo hoodie, and some camo pants. Then, the camo patterns were large blotches of greens and browns; nothing fancy like today’s camo patterns. Those hunting clothes were my prized possession, though, and it’s what made me feel grown-up and like I was one of the guys!
The treestands that we used then were homemade from plywood, chains, and carpet. Safety harnesses were a thing that didn’t even exist. You sat 25 feet up in the air, free as could be. I was in my late teens before safety harnesses were becoming mainstream. Dad was looking out for us, though, and his idea of safety was to take a branch and tie it in front of you to use as a brace. As we sat in that tree, he says “hold on to this and don’t let go.”
I was around ten, maybe eleven years old, when he took me on that first sit with him. The span of my legs could not stretch as far as his; the screw-in tree steps were too far apart for me to climb on them easily. Dad shoved me up the tree and, in a stern voice, said, “climb up there!” I pulled and scrambled up that tree like I was in gym class, pulling myself up the rope we were required to climb in our physical education class.
The whole time I’m knocking bark into Dad’s eyes, at that very moment, I believe he was regretting the decision to bring me along. As we sat there that evening, I recall watching the gray squirrels scurrying across the woods, gathering acorns.
A squirrel soon let out chatter and bark, which startled me and caused me to shake the tree. Again Dad was not impressed with my actions; he was trying to bear down on a doe that had come into feed. I do not recall if he shot that doe that evening; I remember the frustrations that I gave my Dad on that first sit.
In hindsight, was that first outing the reason why we never sat together much? I never asked him that question and just chalked it up to the fact that I had younger brothers coming up in the ranks and that he had to help mentor them.
On this evening of my 35th opening day, my memory bank was filled with fond memories, and I felt lucky to add another one to the list. It reminded me that several people I know will be dealing with some changes this hunting season because they have lost a loved one with whom they shared this sport.