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Mountain Home Magazine

Terms of Endeerment

Nov 01, 2022 09:00AM ● By Gayle Morrow

Losing love is like a window in your heart.
Everybody sees you’re blown apart.
Everybodyfeels the wind blow.

~Paul Simon, from “Graceland

I had no reason to believe that this hunting season was going to be different from any other. The hunter I lived with for over twenty years was going to go hunting, and I was going to roll my eyes at the amount of time he spent in the woods. I was going to laugh to myself, and maybe to him, at the ratty old orange wool shirt he dragged out of his collection of hunting gear and wore every fall. I was going to enjoy the stories he’d relay about the bears and the bobcats and the coyotes he’d see (and marvel that they didn’t see him) while he was bowhunting, and about the sightings over the past several years during rifle season of the piebald doe and her progeny. I was going to agree, as I always did (because he asked and didn’t assume that a vegetarian would want to do this), to help him package venison for the freezer, and I’d get the jars and the canner ready so we could can some of the meat. I was going to be proud of him when, at the end of a cold day, just as he was starting to warm up, he’d put his outside gear back on and go out to help a buddy track a wounded deer.

I was going to have a little fun with this column. It was going to be about hunters—the kind I grew up with, a.k.a. my dad, and the smelly ones. The smelly ones are the guys who come to their camps in our neighborhood (“our” is a bit of a misnomer at this juncture, and I’ll get to that momentarily) from wherever it is they come from, driving their really clean trucks and wearing the latest Cabela’s has to offer. You know those guys—you can smell them a mile away, and certainly the deer can, too—they give off a combination of fabric softener, Febreze, soap/deodorant/shampoo/aftershave (Axe—yikes!), sometimes cigarette smoke, and the bacon they had for breakfast.

I was going to poke at them a little, be a bit derisive about their lack of scouting, their propensity for using four-wheelers, and their endless target practicing that seems to start, and I’m not exaggerating, about ten seconds after they pull into their driveway. You guys think the deer don’t know what’s going on?

I was looking forward to writing about my dad, about his deer hunting routine when I was a kid, and my speculations on why his hunts eventually stopped resulting in dead deer. I was going to maybe throw in some profundity about respecting the animals you kill, because that’s what he did, and note that he would never, ever, have worn anything in the woods that smelled like dryer sheets, and would not have dreamed of cutting the horns off a buck and throwing the rest of the animal over the nearest embankment.

But sometimes as you’re writing, as you’re planning what to write, shit happens. You get a cosmic whap and your life takes a turn you could not have fathomed a week ago, and so your writing must, also. The deer hunter I lived with for over twenty years won’t be out and about this season, and now I have to get that part into this story, too.

I have a theory about why my dad stopped hunting—rather, why he stopped killing deer—and it doesn’t have anything to do with the time he inadvertently (at least I assume it was) hit me in the head with the hatchet he was using on a hanging deer carcass. Someday I’ll tell you that story.

When my sisters and I were growing up in western New York, Thanksgiving at our house meant a mid-afternoon turkey dinner, and then Dad getting ready to leave for a week of deer hunting in Tioga County with his dad, my Grandpa Morrow.

Dad grew up here and hunted here, so he probably knew a lot of places where the deer hung out. He’d have a couple of days to scout, anyway, and I’m sure Grandpa had done his share of it on Dad’s behalf. I can imagine the conversation between them: you know where that trail comes out on such and such a road? Go up there a half a mile and where it forks off to the right there’s a nice buck rub...

I’m pretty sure there was no discussion about food plots, trail cams, big buck contests, the latest high-tech hunting clothing, or any of the bells and whistles that have become the norm for hunting these days. In fact, there probably wasn’t much of any conversation. Dad told me once that for the week of deer season he spent with his dad, they didn’t talk at all! Now that may have been a bit of a tall story, but for Dad, who was not an especially chatty guy, coming from a household of three daughters and a wife, a week of relative silence was probably a nice respite.

Years later, Dad stopped bringing home deer. He didn’t stop hunting, didn’t stop spending that week with his dad, but there was no more “harvesting” (he would not have used that euphemism), and I think it was because we didn’t need the meat. I’m assuming that was due to improvements in my parents’ financial situation, but I’ve also always wondered if my father, a World War II veteran, had simply had enough of killing.

As for my partner, the man with the old, tattered wool shirt, who loved this time of year in ways I didn’t and don’t (fall is not my favorite season), he won’t be filling his tags. “Our” neighborhood, complete with the smelly hunters, is now just “my” neighborhood, but many of those guys have said kindly and sincerely in recent weeks, “Hey, if you need something, let us know.” Everybody sees you’re blown apart.

My hunter was a traditionalist as well as pragmatic. He wasn’t opposed to shooting the big one, but “you can’t eat horns,” he’d say. He and my dad never got to meet, but they would probably have enjoyed each other’s company, and I can envision them spending a week of deer season together, not saying a word.

That silence is absolutely deafening.

In loving memory of:
Charles A. Morrow, November, 9, 1924-April 3, 1992
Brian R. Kamin, June 7, 1957-September 12, 2022

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