About two generations back, nearly every male would be looking forward to Opening Day in November. The primary hunting season ran from late that month to late January, and the opening and closing days might as well have been school holidays, so many fellows were “sick.”
I was the odd guy out because I never really liked hunting. As a preschooler, I had the mandatory BB gun and shot a few frogs and sparrows. Then I was promoted to a .22, but I shot way more targets than critters. I inherited an old single-barrel 16-gauge, but as I recall, I shot exactly one squirrel, one quail, and a few crows with it.
I’d buy my $1.00 license because everyone did, and later I’d have it for fishing, but I didn’t much like hunting. No Nimrod I, no mighty hunter before the Lord. Later, I decided I was a throwback to my “gatherer” ancestors who would harvest crops and glean the fields.
The season does remind me of the last time I held a high-power rifle. I was in my mid-teens and likely the only boy in the county – maybe the state – who’d not shot his first deer. One day Dad came in and said, “There’s a good buck on the hill behind the pond” and handed me his old World War Mauser. I stalked the deer through the bottom to the edge of the pond where I sat and watched him a couple of minutes. Then I turned and went back to the house.
Dad asked, “What’s the matter? Get buck fever?” I simply replied, “Call it what you want. I just didn’t want to kill him.”
That same rifle figures in another hunting story. Dad went out one afternoon to a deer stand he’d built on the edge of the Mills Field, a large, rolling hay field maybe a half-mile from the house. In just a few minutes, a buck edged out of the woods and began grazing. When Dad fired, the deer fell, then got up and scrambled over the hill. Dad gave chase, wanting to finish him off, and when he topped the hill, he shot again at the deer that stood there. Only then did he realize there was a second animal already lying on the ground some distance ahead. He’d accidently killed two deer, and the limit was a strict one per season.
He turned himself in to the game warden who issued the mandatory ticket for an illegal kill. When Dad got to court, the judge interrogated him. “Mr. Black, don’t you think if you hadn’t turned yourself in, no one would have known.” “I would have, Your Honor.”
“Mr. Black, was there no one at home who could have checked the second deer?” “Well, I do have two teenage sons, Your Honor.”
“You have two sons . . . Humph. I think I’ll just throw this case out of court.”
I don’t think Dad ever felt comfortable with that decision.
David Black lives in Louisa County.