Anticipation of Gun Season

As a young hunter, little built so much anticipation as the opening day of gun season. The memories made will fill the room of deer camp for years to come. The author shot his first buck in Pennsylvania, 15 years.

Many hunters wait all year for the start of deer season. For a lot of us, it’s more than just the single “opener,” but rather the entire season as a whole. It’s a three-month timeframe in which we prepare for the other nine months of the year. However, each November brings the opener of many gun seasons for deer. Whether you are a diehard bowhunter or a one-weekend-a-year hunter, there is something suspenseful and magical about the opener of gun season.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I am an extreme bowhunter, rarely taking a gun out anymore, and if I do, it’s usually for “a walk.” However, I am not the kind of guy who will say “I hate gun season,” even though it definitely is frustrating. Hunting public land here in Missouri during gun season is no treat. I cringe at every shot thinking it may be one of the bucks I’ve hunted all year. But I’ll admit, that’s completely selfish of me to say, especially on public land. But you hunt so hard and scout all year so the thought of losing one to an army of orange is, without a doubt, painful.

Hunting public land a lot, gives me time to reflect, not only on the season at hand, but on my life as a hunter. I grew up in Pennsylvania, and although Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and the like may want to lay claim to it, I feel like that state has one of the deepest deer hunting traditions. I mean we still have a “Blue Law” from over 300 years ago that bans Sunday hunting for almost everything except crows, coyotes and foxes. That’s not an exaggeration either, just Google it.

As a kid growing up, my family was filled with hunters (and still is today). Every Thanksgiving dinner revolved around a few minutes of prayer and thanks, 15 to 30 minutes of eating (depending on the number of return trips to the turkey), and hours of deer camp conversation. Most of us left for camp the next morning, anticipating the opener of gun season.

There was no “Black Friday” for us. We were out the door at the same time, but on the road to camp and not the mall. Stories flowed for days of past camps, hunts, and, for a few lucky ones, the harvest of a buck during the Pennsylvania bow season.

As a teenager there was no more exciting feeling than the opener of gun season, regardless of whether I already filled my tag in archery. There’s just something about the day that so many hunters would have a chance at bagging a deer. It was more than just successful harvests, though. Every shot taken, every deer seen, every grouse flushed, every bear track found was a story, and one that would fill the walls on our camp for years to come.

So, as I sit in the stand during gun season each year, anticipating that a buck could walk by at any moment, I am really already building my anticipation for next season.

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