Hunting season starts next Thursday

Did you know that last year, an estimated 648,100 hunters spent 9.6 million days “afield” and harvested nearly 422,000 deer?

Hunting really is a “Michigan pastime” and has been for as long as I can remember.

I know I grew up with just about my whole family – dad, mom, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins – hunting with either a bow or a gun.

Our place just northeast of Roscommon, normally a pretty quiet place, really came alive when November rolled around. We usually had loads of company and sometimes the overflow of guests ended up camping in the garage or the yard, making home their favorite “hunting camp.”

And the stories…everybody had some kind of wild tale to tell and my dad was the recognized professional tale teller in the family. Growing up he spent a lot of time as a “guide” for downstate hunters, a job that not only involved keeping them from getting lost in the woods, but sometimes included actually shooting their deer for them.

My best memories of those times are of the “guys” all in hunters red plaid, sitting around a campfire in the driveway and spinning wilder and wilder “yarns.”

I also remember Mom, spending most of every day in a hot and steamy kitchen, making sure everybody had plenty to eat.

Although sometimes she would head out on a hunt too, although I think she was way too kind-hearted to actually shoot a deer.

She could cook venison though. Actually she could make a pretty tasty dish out of most any kind of game; although Brother Jim still talks about how she wouldn’t cook a squirrel he shot one time. (I think she considered it a tree-climbing rodent.)

I wasn’t allowed in the woods on November 15 until I really was old enough to go hunting and knew how to handle a gun. Dad made sure of that. He did take me hunting for partridge and rabbit and I got to carry my old, rusty bb gun at first and later, when he thought I was big enough for it, a real one.

Like Mom, I never did get into the shooting part, but I sure loved going hunting. Those north woods are one of the reasons I love going up there camping each summer. They are such a peaceful place to be and a long way from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Nothing relaxes me like a walk in the woods. Grandson Jason must have heard me say that this summer. While we were on vacation, he and great nephew Kyle spent a lot of time clearing out the paths through our little woods so I could go for a quiet stroll anytime I wanted.

It’s my little haven and a “hunters free” one for our own little herd of deer too. They know it is a safe place and usually hide out there. It has even been a nursery for spotted fawns.

Sometimes I startle one when I go out there for a walk.