by Chris Thomas
As the 2017 deer season closed I stood at a crossroads. In awe, I looked down over the fog-filled ravine with the sun inching closer to the smoky horizon and wondered how such a beautiful sight could leave me with such anxiety. It was 5 p.m. on closing day and I still had two tags burning a hole in my pocket. As my wife and I raced down the hill hoping to spot a legal blacktail feelings of despair filled my stomach. All the time I had put into this season was going to be for naught.
Now, I wish this was one of those stories with a miraculous ending to a hard hunting season, but, unfortunately, we never did find our forked-horned friend that day.
For some, an unsuccessful season or two will put a damper on their spirits, like it did mine. After beginning to hunt 4 years ago I have harvested only two deer; one archery and one rifle buck. Any hunter can tell you the feeling of ending a hunt with a tag filled is one of the most exhilarating moments you can experience in life. The range of emotions - the excitement, joy, empathy, and sadness, and procrastination for the work known to be ahead. It truly is a moment that you long for constantly throughout the year and once it has come and gone, you want it to happen again.
The true treasure that sustains a hunter through the long year ahead before they get to do it again, however, are the people they share those memories with. For me, those people are my in-laws. I know, it's a rancid term for a god-awful bunch of people who only suck time away from other things you would enjoy doing. But, it's the opposite for me. I'm blessed to have been introduced to hunting through my wife's family. And through hunting they have become my own family, not just by marriage, but by experiences, trials and tribulations; nights spent around a fire exchanging stories past, of a time not long ago when things seemed so much better. Those times for me are now. As I look back on my hunting career, it's not littered with huge racks on a wall but memories shared with the people I love.
Right before my first deer season my wife and I were blessed to have our first son, and nine days later, with little Sawyer strapped in his car seat, the three of us were riding down a dirt road looking for my first buck. I couldn't have asked for two better hunting partners, my own little family, on a journey to find stories we could share later about the good old times that were happening right in front of our eyes. That season was a story of resiliency. Even though we were unsuccessful in taking a deer, we succeeded at showing Sawyer what his life would be about between August and November.
Now in November, looking back on that uneventful closing evening, I am reminded that when I leave with my rifle or bow in hand, while still looking for that set of antlers and juicy steaks, any given day I can come home with something that will last much longer than either. Something that I can pass along to my son that will never fade, a way of life that is so fulfilling it will never leave you with that anxious feeling I had that day. So, in truth, I can say that I tag out every season.
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