My brother-in-law, Dave Flanagan, has been hunting deer since he was just a young lad. His family originated from the east coast. Each year, since he was old enough, he and his father Dan would make the trek east to join the family hunting camp in Connecticut… a tradition that lasted around 20 years. They would meet up with uncles and his grand father. In all those years, Dave recalls the group only harvested a handful of deer but they sure enjoyed going. The ritual would find them coming home in time each fall to hunt the Nebraska firearm opener on their own property.
Over the years, some just stopped going. First his grandfather passed away and then his uncle. His uncle was, like Dave, a gun and hunting nut! Upon his death, he left several items to Dave including a few firearms. This meant a lot to Dave and his Dad. When someone leaves you a gun, well you must have really meant something to them. They knew it would mean a lot to the family back east and to themselves to harvest a nice deer in Nebraska with his uncle’s rifle. Last weekend, they set out to do just that.
The opening morning of the firearm deer season found Dave, his Dad and I perched in deer stands overlooking a large power line field. Well actually they were more like deer blinds…with windows….and heat. I am a rattler, it just works. At about 7 A.M. I began rattling and heard crashing behind me in the trees. Then, a really nice buck appeared. The only problem was he decided to leave the area heading onto the neighbors property. Dave was perched roughly 250 yards away from me and could not see. After a bit more rattling, the buck reappeared directly between the two blinds. Dave saw the brute and made his classic lung shot and the deer was his. This was a nice deer and it meant even more to him because he was able to harvest it with his uncle’s Remington 30/06. It was like his uncle and grandfather were there with him. He later dressed the deer with a vintage Case sheath knife given to him by his grandfather. That meant a lot to him too. He has used that knife ever since his Grandfather’s passing.
Not everyone will understand such traditions. Hunters do. Those rifles, knives, hats…they mean something to us and when we leave this world, we will likely leave them to someone we know will appreciate them as much as we did on those cold mornings. These things can take us back many years to a family filled duck blind, a hearty and warm deer camp or a road trip for roosters. My guns and knives mean a lot to me. My wool hat has been my trusted friend on many a cold stand. I hope they are used, cherished and appreciated by those who will use them long after I am gone. And when they do use them…I hope for just a moment they will share another opening season with me.