I know some of you might think heavens no; December doesn’t need another holiday. After all, it has Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but for those of us living in deer country, we need to make opening day of firearms deer season the kind of holiday that frees kids from school and employees from a day of work. Even for people who don’t hunt, there are advantages.
For those families that put meat on the table the old-fashioned way, the first Wednesday in December is a red-letter day on the calendar. This date signals the opportunity for every licensed hunter in the house to provide pure, unadulterated protein for the family. Diners who eat venison harvested in the wild don’t have to worry about growth hormones or antibiotics leaching into their systems through the meat they consume. Protein in this form is also low in fat so it’s better for folks whose docs have told them to cut back on marbled beef.
Family hunts build bonds between spouses and among parents and children. Spending time on a frosty morning waiting to see a nice buck or fat doe come by creates memories and stories that liven up family gatherings for decades down the road. The meat in the freezer may be long gone, but tales of difficult shots or of recovering a deer from a field far from the road make great fireside tales year after year.
Not only are these times to create family legends, they are also moments to teach patience and respect for nature. Youngsters too young to carry a gun can learn to sit quietly waiting for game to come in range. Every hunt provides a wealth of lessons about the outdoors from studying wind patterns to discovering how still you can be when a skunk wanders near your hiding spot.
Once a successful hunt is over, family bonding and learning continue as youngsters help prepare the carcass for butchering. Much of my understanding of anatomy occurred as I helped either my dad or my husband cut up a deer. Helping field dress a fresh carcass made high school biology dissections look easy. These experiences have made me appreciate my source of meat so much more than buying a shrink-wrapped package in a grocery store.
For non-hunters and vegetarians, reducing deer populations through controlled harvests make driving down roads safer. In addition, managing populations is better for the herd health. Too many deer in an area not only makes driving dangerous, it also means more depredation on crops and native plants. A pitiful sight for any who have experienced is a sick herd. In regions where residents discourage hunting, disease whittles populations in a season or two.
While the idea of an official holiday is tongue in cheek, I do love to hear stories of families that make this day and the rest of the season an annual event. Not only do these folks reduce deer populations that make driving to work a game of real life pinball with the car as the flicker and the deer as the puck, but they also strengthen family bonds, provide healthy protein for meals, and teach respect for nature.