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Memories of hunting season

Driving through the heart of Alabama recently I saw more than a few big pickups with dog crates in the beds.

Hunting season.

I don’t hunt.

At least not any more.

I used to hunt, but I never worked to become good at it.

I’m sorta like the old preacher who was such a poor shot that he quit hunting. For him, it was a waste of God’s precious time.

There was that.

There was also that when I was young and might have gone into the woods, hunting season coincided with football season.  After a Friday night getting snot-walloped on the gridiron, getting up early to ambush some unsuspecting animal was not on my agenda.

Besides, there was no cheerleader to hug you after a successful hunt.

Another mark against hunting.

My father was a hunter, and I well recall him going into the woods at dusk, after work, to “tree” a turkey, then getting up in the pre-dawn darkness to wait for the bird to wake, stretch, and meet its maker.  I never took part.  Maybe Daddy lacked the patience to teach me or I lacked the patience to learn, but probably because it was his solitary pastime and a man needs that.

He did take me deer hunting – deer drives – which consisted of men gathering on someone’s land, parceling out places (“stands”) where each hunter would wait for the game which was “driven” past them by the dogs that a handler had taken to an assigned spot and turned loose to raise the animal and propel it to its doom.

As you can tell, here in my dotage, I have as much regard for the hunted as for the hunter.

But not back then.  Not when I was a hunter.

Or at least pretending to be.

The pretense began as I joined real hunters keeping warm around a fire and listened to the talk of dogs, deer, and men gone from the earth but still living in memory – “Remember how ‘Buck’ Waite . . .” – the grandfather I never knew, but whose skill was still recalled decades later.

I have the antlers from one of his kills, mounted and displayed.

But I digress.

They would talk and I would listen, waiting for the “stands” to be assigned and knowing I would get one of the poorest, which was OK, for if I was placed where a deer might run I was likely to shoot and miss and instead of having the blood smeared on my face to mark me as a hunter, I would have my shirttail ceremonially cut off – which is why I always wore a shirt I could sacrifice.

Then we would go to our assigned spots.

I never got off a shot.

Then it was 1961 and I went off to college.

No more deer drives.

Then it was 1990.

That was when I got my first and only deer.

Got it on Hwy 431, just south of Gadsden.

Got it with a Buick.

There is a point to my telling this.

It is fall.  The weather is dry.  Deer are looking for forage along roadways.  Be alert or you might get one as well.

Or one might get you.

Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist for Alabama Living.  He can be reached at hjackson@cableone.net.