I know there are a ton of traditions out there. Please feel free to comment with a tradition that is special to your family.
The one that comes to mind for me is the cutting of the shirt tails of the young hunter who misses a deer. I’ve always loved that custom.
This past rifle season, though, it came to have new meaning. The cabin is in Pike County. There were 12 hunters in for the opening of Pennsylvania’s rifle season (for those older hunters, this used to be called Buck season, but now you can shoot just about anything). Twelve guys, one cabin. Do the math, it was cramped. So what, it was hunting season.
We were all up way before oh-dark thirty, making plans on where and with who were were going to hunt. I’m the odd man out at this camp (the others have been hunting here 25 years), so I was hunting alone. The others asked about lunch plans and I declined, settling for a dark-to-dark hunt; not wanting to waste any hunting hours.
I got to my spot finally, and it was way to cold to climb that tree, so I just sat, and sat, and sat. I didn’t see anything all morning. Didn’t even hear much shooting. But there was at least one shot close by. The radio chatter confirmed it, a nice 10 point buck had been missed by one of our hunters. The others finally made it back to the cabin for lunch and a nap. I remained steadfast. That afternoon, as the others were trekking back into the woods, I finally saw some deer – 6 doe running for their lives. There was no way I would shoot at a running group of deer, but it was nice to have at least seen some deer. Then I heard a shot, again fairly close by. Sure enough, the radio chatter again confirmed another miss by the same hunter at the same 10 point buck. Unreal. I sat patiently, and by 3:30 that afternoon, the patience paid off as I was able to take a nice 7 point buck at only 30 yards from where I sat all day. Out of 12 hunters, I was the only one that had any success.
But our unlucky one, who missed the same 10 point buck in the morning and the afternoon, is the real story. You might think he was young and just full of “buck fever.” Not so. I would put him in mid-40s give or take. From the stories of his previous hunts and similar results, he shouldn’t have any shirt left.
It’s a story like this that makes hunting so special. Non-hunters who just think it is about killing just miss the point entirely. Sure, the deer herd might be down. The seasons might be all screwed up. We might not be seeing any deer. But we still have some great traditions and fantastic times.
I think our cabin is going to start a new tradition next season…we’ll staple the cut tails to one of the walls and mark if for future hunters to read and dream about. I might even miss, just so I can make the wall.