An outdoorsman's gratitude for all that is Thanksgiving Day

cdad@hiltonheadisland.netNovember 27, 2013 

20070723 1 Dove hunting

A good dove hunt is a fitting start to a hunter's Thanksgiving Day. There's no pressure and the sound of banter and laughing can be heard as the hunters wait for their shots.

LEE — McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Tomorrow's the day! I have always regarded Thanksgiving as my absolute favorite holiday. No pressure to exchange gifts, just a day to be together, laugh and eat until our stomachs burst.

For hunters, Thanksgiving week is a sportsman's feast. There is a one-week duck season, dove hunting is in and the deer hunters are sitting in tree stands surrounded by autumn colors. Some of my fondest memories revolve around this time of the year.

Each and every Thanksgiving, longtime friends of mine, David Donnell from Bluffton and local architect Wayne Windham, and I would head to "The Bog," a tidal pothole in the middle of the salt marsh near the Savannah bridge that was a favorite of mallards, blue and green wing teal, black ducks, widgeon and pintails. We called ourselves the "Bog Brothers." Just getting to "The Bog" while loaded down with backpacks, guns, decoys, waders and a ration of Beanie Weenies and Old Mr. Boston's Rock and Rye was a three-hour trek in the dark. One false step, and you could easily sink out of sight in pluff mud and never be seen again.

But it was always worth it.

After all that effort, we would build a blind and set out our decoys as the sun edged over the marsh. In the dim early morning light, the widgeon could be heard first, squealing high overhead. Between that sound and the sun hitting the marsh grass it was hard not to give thanks for the experience. It was so unbelievably beautiful. It never seemed to fail that as this sight hypnotized the three of us, a flight of teal with full afterburners on would scream through our decoys and be out of sight before a gun could be raised. That was all right, though, because we were together, happy and thankful. A nip of Rock and Rye rot gut whiskey was our traditional way of honoring the very fact that we were able to witness such a beautiful sight.

Though I would love to head for "The Bog" again for old time's sake, it would be one heck of a trek, because I'll be in Los Angeles visiting my son Logan.

Maybe a wood duck hunt or, even better, getting an invite to a dove shoot will be your start to this great holiday. For me at least, a good dove hunt is without a doubt my favorite form of wing shooting. Like Turkey Day itself, there is no pressure, and it is a time to be with friends. Watching labs and other retrievers working, listening to the hunters' bantering and lighthearted ribbing -- you just have to love it.

I would always get a chuckle when a lone dove would leisurely fly down the length of the field and every hunter would take a pot shot, or two or three, and the bird would keep on flying out of sight, as if nothing had happened.

These are the images that make being together on this day so special. After the hunt is over, and it's time to head home to that long-awaited Thanksgiving feast, the dove hunters usually gather together and swap stories about this person missing that bird and there's jokes galore. You just can't help but experience that all-too-rare feeling of true contentment.

As you get up tomorrow and you're sipping a cup of coffee while reading the paper, why not take a new approach to this grand holiday? Get outside, hop in your boat and go fishing or go hunting for a bit. Take a long, hard look at what you have around you and the incredible beauty that it holds.

Living here is such a blessing and so many memories can be made by surrounding yourself with the incredible nature we have.

Eat well, enjoy the game and Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

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