Easing through an oak-filled flat near Daleville, I was brimming with anticipation over the prospects of hunting with my grandfather, James Patrick Nolen, and little brother Joe. I had already put them on a stand and was scouting for buck sign a couple hours later when a familiar whistle stopped me dead in my tracks. "Bob, Bob, white, Bob, Bob, white," sounded the quail in the swamp.
But wait, my mind told me that there weren’t any quail in this swamp. A light bulb came on in my head when I heard the familiar refrain of a Bobwhite’s locater call perfected by Pawpaw Pat once more.
Before I had the opportunity to think again I heard a crashing sound coming from his direction. Straining to see what was making the ruckus through the thicket; my eyes couldn’t believe what I saw as antlers appeared above the brush coming straight at me.
As the buck popped out into an opening some 20 yards distant, his massive rack shined like Christmas tree lights and I quickly put the crosshairs of my 30-06 behind his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. As the rifle roared and echoed through the swamp, the buck disappeared in the swamp bottom and silence followed.
Had Pawpaw Pat seen the buck and tried to move him my way? Or had his whistling turned the buck towards me? Whatever the cause, his whistling did get my attention and caused me to stop for just an instant at just the right time. Just long enough for me to spot that old buck crashing through the brush before he spotted me.
A sinking feeling promptly hit me and I was sick to my stomach at letting that buck get by me. Could I have missed at such close range? The buck never flinched or appeared hit, but I had to find out as soon as possible. Hurrying to the spot where I last saw the buck, I detected a bright red splotch glistening on the leaves.
And then I spotted another and another and finally the trail led directly to my Thanksgiving buck. I’d sent the 180 grain bullet right into his heart and he ran just out of sight before collapsing in a heap. The thrill of harvesting a trophy buck in close quarters while stalking on my feet with a rifle in my hands was exhilarating and rewarding, but doing it while my hunting mentor and brother were there with me made it better still.
Just the mere mention of Thanksgiving brings up vivid memories for many of us. Thanksgiving is a time of celebration of the good times and good memories for many. Family, food and fun are all intertwined in memories of the past and present. Thanksgiving is a time for counting our blessings and taking stock of the bountiful blessings and opportunities that we have all around us.
No matter how tough things may seem, we are blessed to live in a land that is still overflowing with bountiful opportunities and teeming with fish and game. We are limited only by our imagination. If you are an outdoorsmen you can celebrate another Thanksgiving Day in the woods or on the water and then enjoy a magnificent feast with family and friends. And you can make new Thanksgiving memories with your family and friends while remembering the days of yore.
As I celebrate another Thanksgiving Day I’ll be thankful for the opportunities of today, while reminiscing of successful hunts and family gatherings from days gone by. And I will remember those who have gone before us, making our way a bit easier while sacrificing so much for us. As I stalk through the autumn woods in search of another buck I’ll remember the sacrifices of my parents and grandparents and thank God for the abundant opportunities given me.
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