Sometimes we take our time in the woods for granted.
I remember my first deer hunt like it was yesterday. It wasn't actually the hunt itself that made it so special, but the people I sat with. I sat with my father and younger brother. My brother and I were new hunters altogether, while my father was relatively new to deer hunting. He grew up fishing and turkey hunting, and we followed suit.
While living in Georgia, we joined a southern tradition referred to as a "hunting club." Fifteen guys, including the three of us, leased a piece of hunting property in middle Georgia. My dad and I traveled with some church friends to the club a couple times during the summer to hang treestands. These included both ladder stands and wooden stands we concocted. We set up a bunk house we built out of old telephone poles, plywood and 2x4 boards. We learned gun safety, how to drive four-wheelers and how to clear small areas to plant food plots with landowner permission.
Deer season drew closer and closer, and we anticipated the camaraderie we would share in deer camp that fall and winter. My brother and I readied ourselves, as we dreamed of big bucks and antlers while trying to sleep before opening morning. We finished our in-class hunter safety course, bought our hunting licenses, hit the shooting range and staged all our hunting gear. Now we just needed to actually hunt.
Morning dawned and we all jumped on our ATVs and cruised to our designated hunting area. Our first deer hunting season had commenced. Our stand overlooked a late-summer food source, though I don't remember exactly what it was (perhaps crimson clover or iron clay peas). As a new deer hunter, most of this was foreign to me, so I wholeheartedly trusted my dad knew what he was doing. My brother and I held our .243 deer rifle and waited for a big deer to meander by our position.
I must admit, the hunt itself was a lot of fun, but we didn't shoot any deer. Several guys in camp did. They ranged from small bucks to varying degrees of antlerless deer. No "trophy deer" fell that morning. Even though we didn't shoot anything, I remember how excited we were just to see what everyone else shot that morning. We ate Pop-Tarts and doughnuts around the fire while sharing stories about our hunts.
For many, our first deer hunt probably unsuccessful and uneventful. However, for us, it's a permanent memory.
Sure, shooting a deer would have been the icing on the cake, but we still created hunting stories I can share with my son one day.
A special hunt is what you make it. It doesn't require a kill or big antlers, but rather sharing experiences with the people closest to you.