Thanksgiving and Hunting Traditions Collide

November 26, 2019 | by Nick Pinizzotto

What a wonderful time of the year. It’s the time of year responsible for some of my favorite memories, especially when daydreaming about my childhood years. Thanksgiving dinner in our house was typically served around 4:00 p.m., which allowed plenty of time during the early part of the day to engage in hunting-related activities. While most would consider dinner, spending time with family, and football among their favorite aspects of the holiday, mine was always getting our guns out of the cabinet and making sure they were sighted in for deer season. Opening day of firearms season in my state was always the Monday after Thanksgiving so shooting on Thursday would still give you the weekend to deal with any problems you might encounter.

Even before I was old enough to shoot, I was mesmerized by the crack of the rifle, and impressive sound of the bullet ripping through the air at thousands of feet per second. When it came time to check the target, I was always the first one there, sprinting ahead as if the job couldn’t be done without me. Eventually the adults wouldn’t bother to make the walk and instead would say, “Run down and check that kid,” which I was elated to do. Decades later these memories still come flooding back the minute I take in the familiar smells of gun oil, solvent, and burnt powder.

Everyone in our neighborhood hunted, and we were lucky enough to have a built-in shooting area with a more than 100-yard range backed by a significant hill. All it took was for one shot to be fired to signal to everyone within earshot it was time to sight in, and minutes later the neighbors would be walking over with their trusty deer rifles slung over their shoulder. While I loved the shooting, the amount of B.S. that started flowing was equally impressive. Every topic from who was going to kill the biggest buck to who was the best shooter or had the hardest hitting rifle was covered. Every once in a while, these conversations moved away from me and the other youngsters and were held at a whisper level before typically ending with boisterous laughter. I couldn’t wait to be part of those conversations.

Eventually I became one of the shooters and I always wanted to impress the older guys, although to this day I describe myself as a below average bench shooter, and that’s probably being generous. I don’t know if I ever beat the “old guys,” but like any arrogant teenager I talked like I did. Following me in subsequent years were my brother and his friends, and eventually my wife who shot a gun for the first time, and soon after, her first deer. While I’m in no hurry for my son to grow up, I trust he’ll get his turn soon and I hope he loves it as much as I did as a kid.

If you’re lucky enough to have a deer season in your state over Thanksgiving, you may have a tradition of getting a few hours of hunting in before or after dinner. Judging by my social media feeds, I’d say that’s the case for a lot of people I know. Others who don’t have deer seasons take advantage of small game opportunities, and some of my friends have bagged a turkey on Thanksgiving Day. I haven’t pulled that one off yet, but it seems like something a serious hunter should try to accomplish. I just might give it a try this year.

Do you have hunting-related traditions that coincide with Thanksgiving Day? Maybe it’s a special dish made with wild game, or a hunt that you go on with friends or family. It could be scouting or setting stands and blinds for opening morning if your season hasn’t started yet, or binge watching your favorite hunting shows. We’re asking you to tell us in our current NDA members’ survey. If you have a favorite Thanksgiving Day hunting story, please share it with us and we may publish it in an upcoming article on the NDA website and in our On Watch newsletter.

Whatever your hunting-related Thanksgiving traditions are, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on how lucky we are in our country to be able to pursue our hunting passion. We’re blessed to have abundant game and the opportunity to pursue it, which is something not enjoyed in most other countries. Also keep in mind that this didn’t happen by accident. We should all be thankful for each other as hunters continually do their part to support conservation and wildlife management through direct efforts, or indirectly by purchasing guns, ammunition, and some archery equipment that fuels the Pittman-Robertson Act. The act provides funding for the selection, restoration, and improvement of wildlife habitat, and for wildlife management research largely by financially supporting our state wildlife management agencies.

On behalf of the staff and board of directors at NDA, best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Be safe, and good luck if you’re heading afield.