Hunting season is upon us. Though this sport has lost favor in the last few years, I still await clothed hunters who now with bright day-glow orange are easily recognized at convenience stores and gas stations. Most sport their tags on the backs of their jackets.
As a child, I remember deer hunting as a fun-filled time. Two uncles and my dad’s friends from the city camped at our house. The back porch was filled with hunting jackets, no “come-a-little-closer doe lore” was allowed in the house.
Our city friends shopped the big-city stores which touted the latest in guaranteed-successful-quest-to-the-whitetail-of-your-dreams devices. One buck call sounded like a duck in distress, another like an injured cow. And of course the deer-scent drag, a small piece of leather doused with the finest buck lure, guaranteed not to weaken in the rain or dry out in the wind, tied with a string to your back of your pants, where it would put down a path no real manly deer could ignore. He would most assuredly follow the path and into your sights.
Best of all were the fake antlers that when hit together were supposed to sound like a couple of bucks in combat. This of course would summon any red-blooded fully well-antlered male to come charging to join the fray. Though the season provided many a good story about “I had him in my sights,” the plastic antlers did not bring any prize winners to the great maple that grew just outside our kitchen door. This fine tree was the animal gallows which all of my dad’s and his companions hung their reward.
Lenny was an ardent wannabe hunting champion from Bellport, Long Island. A self-claimed clairvoyant, he brought with him a strange deck of cards and a small sack of stones. After dinner, he would lay out the cards and toss the stones on them. If the stars were aligned in his favor, his incantation would assure him that a great stag of the Catskills would cross his path.
As I remember it, the only magic he was good at was in the kitchen. My mother loved Lenny. He was home early from the hunt every day and helped her cook for the gang. He made the best potato leek soup I have ever tasted.
The old family stories that never grow old are repeated year after year. My cousin David, who like his dad, my uncle Stanley came with all the right equipment. But David was no dedicated hunter. He spent his evenings partying. No early to bed, early to rise for him. Rousted out of that warm bed, he fell asleep at the base of a great oak, and then awaken in time to take down a great buck. The first year his quarry was big enough to have mounted. This unethical style, successful for two years in a row, was an irritant to his dad, who followed all the hunting rules and wore a deer-catching hat to no avail.
My oldest son Stephen, takes after his grandfather. He is a hunter who scouts ahead of time, watches for the signs, and is a successful huntsman. This year he showed me a picture of a six-pointer he decided to give a pass, just waiting for a bigger trophy. I am sure that his garage will be sporting a winner before the season ends.
Every hunting season brings back those old memories of the good times in Willow, where I grew up. I now do very little hunting. My back will not allow me to trek the mountains. My four-wheeler will take me far enough into hunting territory, but it is the dragging home the kill that dampens my enthusiasm.
The best part of hunting is thinking about going and talking about it after you get back.
A few issues ago I was writing about the businesses that have filled the Village of Saugerties with their wares over the years. Some have endured. Others have disappeared, leaving memories of what was.
Needing a bit of help remembering the Saugerties of my yesteryear, I enlisted Elda Zulick of Grist Mill Reality fame to help in this endeavor. I began my column, writing about our meeting at a local pub, The Dutch.
I remembered those moments as an afternoon with a few laughs and a few Coors Light. I insinuated that Elda joined me in the suds. Not so, as was noted by those who are aware of her standard routine of teetotaler. With this in mind, I want to assure her family and friends that I was the one enjoying the brew. Nor did I encourage Elda to join me in this imbibing. I am sorry for any distress a rumor otherwise might have caused.