As I was sitting in a tree stand last week attempting to harvest a big whitetail buck I’d seen on my trail cameras, my mind began to backtrack over my many years as an outdoorsman.
Just how many times since about the age of ten, way back in 1960, had I sat in a deer stand waiting for “the big one”? How many hours had I spent in the woods in pursuit of game? Could I calculate the approximate number by estimating how many hunts per year and the average time I spent on stand on each hunt? I soon gave up on this idea and lost myself in thought.
At this stage of my hunting career I am very thankful to still be able to climb up into a tree stand or drag a buck out of the woods (I have friends much younger that cannot). Granted, I do tasks much slower than when I was a young man, but I am grateful to have been blessed with all these many years of fine memories.
Approaching age seventy two, it’s a no brainer that my days of hunting from trees or dragging game out of the woods are numbered but being the eternal optimistic, I am making plans to hunt from ground stands a decade from now.
Looking back on sixty years of spending time in the outdoors, I have seen many changes. I thought it might be fun to recap some of the things I remember from bygone days when I was a whipper snapper roaming the woods up in Red River County.
I remember using my little single shot J.C. Higgins .22 rifle on my first squirrel hunt with my Dad in the late fifties. It was a windy morning and a big fox squirrel was perched on a limb high in an oak tree in the woods behind our house. I timed the swaying of the branch perfectly and shot that squirrel squarely through the head.
In retrospect, it was a lucky shot but one I will never forget.
I remember riding a Greyhound bus from Dallas to Houston when I was about 13 to hunt deer down in Waller County with my Poppa Dinkins. I walked into the terminal in Dallas with my trusty 30/30 in a soft gun case with a box of shells zipped inside. The driver informed me he would have to stow my rifle in the luggage compartment. Nobody gave me a second look as I walked through the terminal with the rifle. Could you imagine doing this today?
I remember my dad ordering a British 303 rifle by mail when I was a kid. In a couple of weeks the rifle was delivered by the postman. When I told this to one of my grandsons recently, he stared in disbelief. He had read about the lack of regulations back in the day but I guess he never thought his old Grandpa actually lived during that era.
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. I had an old .410 Mossberg bolt action shotgun loaded with rifled slugs, not the best choice for deer hunting but it was all I had and I was very proud of it. I was positioned at the base of a pine tree with low limbs and instructed to climb up and sit tight until dark. The only other instructions I was given were “we will come get you”. I’m sure I was squirming around too much for any deer in its right mind to come anywhere near that pine. I was actually deer hunting and felt as though I had been on a 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 pick-up with trotlines, tarps, cooking gear and bait and head up to southeast Oklahoma near Idabel to camp and fish for a couple days. We would go to a lake we called “Long Log Lake” somewhere near Idabel. Our goal was to get the lines set and catch a mess of channel catfish before dark for a fish fry. I’ve looked for this lake on maps but can only find a 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 keeping me stocked with rat shot for my .22. When the 14,000 chickens sold he would turn me loose with my rat terrier, Pokey, to decrease the number of rats that moved from the woods into the chicken houses to eat the spilled feed. One evening my brother in law and I, with Pokey’s help removed a total of 52 rats from the empty chicken houses…this remained our record for several years.
I remember borrowing a big black and tan hound from Mr. Guthrie to go squirrel hunting. The dog was well trained but getting a bit long in the tooth. He made up in experience what he might have lacked in endurance. Still, hunting for squirrels was fun but nothing like hunting with a dog when you went into the woods knowing you would find squirrels. Back in the sixties squirrel numbers were nowhere near what they are today. Once the whitetail deer boon occurred, many hunters’ interests turned from small game to deer. It’s a shame more young hunters today aren’t introduced to squirrel hunting. Wild squirrels in the woods are far different animals from the tame squirrels many of us encounter at city parks or in our yards.
I’ve seen many changes in the outdoors since my days as a young boy. I can truly say that we are currently living in the good ole days when it comes to deer hunting. Deer are plentiful all across the state and opportunities to hunt them abundant. May this lifestyle go on forever!
Our weekly outdoors show, “A Sportsman’s Life” is now available on Carbon TV. You can download the network on ROKU or watch on your device at www.carbontv.com. Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton via his website www.catfishradio.org