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Happy Holidays

TgivinghenToys and presents litter the floor as I write this and think about the speed with which the holidays have hit us full on. It was only four weeks ago during Thanksgiving, a rare day when both firearms deer season and turkey season occurs on the same day in Virginia. I had, for the second straight year, been able to make it down for the earlier two-week fall season for birds in the state and was looking for a chance at a little double-duty on this chilly morning.

My buddy's son, Chase, had told me of some birds he heard right at roost time from where he was hunting the evening before so I headed to the area, knowing it to be a good spot for both deer and turkeys. As I hunt in a shotgun-only county, I had the chamber and mag loaded with buckshot, and a pair of No. 5s tucked in my shirt pocket for quick access. I had forgotten my calls, but dug around long enough in my truck to find a partially dry-rotted mouth call. After sucking on it for about 15 minutes, I was able to pull a passable yelp from it, but little else.

At first light, I heard roosted birds begin to call at least a couple hundred yards through the woods and did my best to make them hear my calls. From there, the woods fell silent except for the occassional yelp I would toss out about every 20 minutes or so. Around seven, I hit the call again, but instead of the usual silence heard a yelp answer me from what I thought was less than a 100 yards behind me.

I slipped a turkey load from my pocket, slid back the bolt on my near-ancient Remington 1100, and promptly dropped the 3-inch 000 onto the metal platform of my climber. I just winced and slipped the No. 5 in its place, hoping for a miracle.

I got one. As I turned to look and call once more, I heard an alarm putt. My eyes searched frantically for the source and found it, in the form of three hens, 40 yards out and angling off to my left, not directly behind me as I had first thought. One of them stepped behind a large oak giving me the chance to raise the shotgun. When it stepped clear, I fired. It was the first fall bird I had taken in three years, ending the longest autumn drought I've ever had since beginning chasing fall birds more than a dozen years ago.

I clambered down the tree, collected my prize and scrambled back up in the climber to finish out the morning. A half hour later, a small doe eased by and I added her to the morning's chores. The annual Thanksgiving dinner at Howwin Farm would have it's blackened deer loin for appetizers and a real holiday turkey for a meal, even if I didn't get the chance to sample it myself. I would give it to my brothers and friends to enjoy as I hustled off to join up with the wife and kids.

The gifts yesterday where of a different kind, but no less wonderful, as I watched my daughter delight at her gifts and shared time with family and friends that I seldom get to see. I hope your holidays have been just as wonderful and given you plenty of time to reflect on all the things for which you can be thankful. And as we head into this New Year, I hope each of you find a little more time to do the things you really want to do and achieve. I know I'm going to get started tomorrow, when I head out to the woods for another morning of hunting on my Virginia farm, the first time I will have had a chance to go back there and hunt since that awesome Thanksgiving hunt.