Saturday, November 21st, started the 169th rifle season for Wisconsin. This nine-day season is filled with many family traditions; as I talked with fellow hunters, I heard many stories about camps being closed or hunters staying home. These comments, though, were not aligned with what the DNR was reporting for license sales.
Just from personal experience, this year was going to be a different kind of season. The family Thanksgiving that we usually do on Friday night before the opener was canceled. The cabin at my parents’ place was shut down. It had been a long tradition that for nine-days, the family all stayed at the homestead and cabin area. Every evening was a theme night of some sort; whether that be playing cards, watching movies, these moments were always a highlight of the year.
Mom would break out her homemade cooking skills, and none of us ever had to worry about losing any weight in camp. For nine days, she would spoil us with her cooking. Some of the camp favorites that everyone would look forward to are every part of her Thanksgiving meal, lasagna, some kind of fantastic pumpkin bar, homemade caramel popcorn. Just thinking about these favorites makes my mouth water.
I have tried to duplicate her lasagna and fail at it. I swear for someone with a strong German background, somewhere along the way, that woman got some Italian in her. Her homemade popcorn is so good I told her that she could sell this stuff; I even named it one year as Raeder Creek Carmel Corn. That is the name of the little creek that runs through the property where parents live.
With these traditions being changed this year, I still wanted to give my boys the Thanksgiving meal on Friday night. Friday morning, I woke up early to finish up the Turkey that I started before bed, made the stuffing and potatoes. Everything was ready just to be warmed on the wood burner once we got into camp.
Our opening weekend was going to be up north based in the outfitter tent. The boys did spend time in the tent over the fall season, and it is where we did our youth hunt for 2020. So it wasn’t a new experience for them, just their first rifle season.
As we lit the Coleman lantern, started the fire in the woodstove, and got the food warming on the stovetop. It didn’t take long before the tent smelled of a beautiful Thanksgiving meal. Corey and his family came over from the next campsite and joined us in our meal. It had a small feeling of what the Indians and Pilgrims did many years ago.
We decided that after a long day of working and getting up early to get to our stands, we would pass on card games tonight. It was off to bed. Bryce and Connor did a great job of getting up throughout the night to keep throwing wood on the fire. I often tell my boys that camping is one of those activities that is really about teamwork. Everyone in the camp should pitch in and help out with tasks. As they have gotten older, they are embracing the understanding of that more and more now, if I could just get them to apply the same logic to stuff around the house! I can’t complain too much about their efforts for a bunch of guys running a household. I think we do okay.
The morning was here; coffee was started on the wood burner, and excitement for the hunt was growing. I would be sitting with Bryce in our ground blind we had built from logs, Jared and Connor would be sitting stands that had been hung earlier in the year.
Bryce and I sat watching partridge, blue jays, and squirrels. Connor and Jared were getting the same results with an addition of a porcupine and a weasel. Bryce was getting bored, so we got up and took a little stroll through the woods.
It was 9:15 am and a shot echoed through the forest; I did my excited Dad fist pump and said to Bryce, that has got to be one of the boys. We soon got a text message from Connor that said he shot his first buck. By the time Bryce and I had reached Connor’s stand, Jared was already there. The boys were standing over the buck, admiring the trophy! I took a moment to thank our maker for this moment in time; hugs and hi-fives were shared.
We got a group photo of this moment; as I share this with you, I hope you all get or have had those moments in life that you wish would never end. This very moment was one of those times. As I sat in those pines with my boys smiling, laughing, and reliving the moment of the morning hunt, I didn’t want it to go away.
I watched Connor grab his buck and drag it out; it was a proud moment watching him do this. At some point, we all took turns helping Connor drag his buck out to the truck. As I pulled that buck with Connor by my side, I said, “let’s slow down; you already got him; we don’t have to chase him down!” That comment could be a sign of my age catching up with me, or it could have been that I wanted to take an extra moment to cherish this time of dragging a deer next to my son.
The rest of our weekend hunt by what we were calling our “north crew” was relatively quiet. Leatha and Rolyn did have a missed opportunity at some deer during their Saturday morning sit. Connor had a missed opportunity at another deer during his Saturday evening sit.
Saturday night, we did spend our time playing cards with Corey, Leatha, and all the kids. Our theme this year was to wear red flannel shirts, which we all had on that night playing cards. Boone also was in camp with us, playing his role as the camp mascot.
For those of you that had your traditions broken up or changed, I hope you found a way to make some memories still. I wish you all a safe and enjoyable rest of your gun season.
In closing, I hope you find a way to get into the outdoors, create your adventure and memories, but most importantly, find a way to “Celebrate the Experience.” Go check out www.thankfuloutdoors.com for more content and share your “Celebrate the Experience” moment with us!
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