By Robert Hitt Neil, Syndicated columnist
The Picayune Item
It depends to a large extent on who you’re talking to, but the term “First Day,” or “Opening Day” doesn’t mean when our forebears were back in the Garden of Eden, eating peaches. If you mention that in late summer or early fall, everyone knows with certainty that you are referring to the Opening Day of dove season. A month later, there’s a choice: might be squirrel, rabbit, or bow season.
Before you get up on your dewclaws, now, I do not have a pamphlet in front of me with the game laws and seasons on it. Squirrel season has just traditionally opened around the first of October, deer bow season about then, too, and we always figured the beagles were ready to run rabbits when it had frosted a couple of times to make the “wolves” (botfly larvae) drop off the bunnies.
Along comes Thanksgiving, marking the opening of deer gun season in most places, as well as the bird season, or quail, as it is listed. Soon duck season arrives (I’m not sure that they even have a closed season on geese anymore) and a real sportsman is faced with the possibilities of taking the decoys and shotguns along with the .30-06 and drag strap. God planned it all thataway.
The cold weather hit just right around here for Opening Day. It was a clear but windless dawn, the frost crisping up the grass and leaves in its hoar-white grasp in the pre-dawn darkness. In my experience, that would be good: it always has seemed that the deer don’t move quite as early on such a day, but they do get really active once the sun bumps over the horizon, when you are in your stand. Of course, that white frost on the metal rungs will betray you if you aren’t careful in your rubber-bottomed boots.
Settled in, with a cup of Slung Coffee from the camo thermos hanging from the nail on the tree beside the stand, and you idly wonder once again if deer can smell coffee, and if it doesn’t smell as good to them as it does to you! Movement to the right in the dry grass along the trail — a couple of coyotes slipping back to sleep off their night’s hunting. Shortly there’s a gray-spotted blur behind a briar patch, which turns out to be a bobcat slinking through the brush — beautiful!
Brown — there’s a brown form out there just behind a buckbrush, and it moved. Are those antlers glinting in the sun, or a bare branch? Bare branch, but it’s a doe who tiptoes into the edge of a clearing, then she pulls the old “Look back behind me” trick just as I’ve decided that maybe she’s big enough for the freezer. It’s amazing that the half-full cup has reached safety at the side of the board forming the top of the stand, without me realizing I was setting it down. The scope reveals no antlers behind the lying doe, but now she’s fed into a plum thicket that will never reveal a clear shot — it worked again!
The cup replenished from the steaming thermos soundlessly and with hardly any detectable movement, I lean back against the sycamore just as the rays of the sun begin to warm my outside while the coffee warms the inside.
Okay, that would be the start of a perfect Opening Day, if you can imagine what I just imagined.
But it would be many times more perfect if I really was there.
See, I picked up an exotic little bug a few months ago, which took a while to convince me to seek professional medical treatment (I ain’t bad about running to the doc for a hangnail), then a little while longer for the aforesaid professional medicos to figure out and treat, then a little while longer to actually get that little sucker defeated and in remission (it had un-remissed after 30-plus years) then a little while longer to identify another exotic infection from the same era that makes the victim’s red blood cells pass off before they’re half grown, resulting in a diagnosis of severe anemia right before a woman’s voice proclaims, “Don’t you even THINK about climbing up in a deer stand, even in your own back yard!”
Have you too reached the automatic “Yessum” stage? Sure was a pretty day.