Hunting and golf, never mastered either one

Money can’t buy happiness. But it can buy a hunting license and that’s happiness.
Tee-shirt slogan in a hunting shop.

Know anyone who’s framed a hunting license? Me either, maybe I’ll be the first. Very appropriate since the license is my first.

I’m not a hunter. Just never caught on with me. Like playing golf. I’ve tried both hunting and golf and all I have to show for my efforts are demeaning but funny stories.

Dad took me duck hunting when we lived in West Texas. At the age of nine, I’m guessing a license wasn’t required. The only requirement I do recall was arising way too early for a weekend morning when it was way too cold to be outside. Plus, it was way too hard sneaking up on a handful of ducks floating around on a Baylor County, Texas tank: that’s West Texas speak for an East Texas pond.

Gave deer hunting my best shot in the late 60s up in Titus County where co-worker Johnny Garner invited me to go. I quickly accepted adding I‘d borrow dad’s 22. Allowing as how it would take a little larger weapon, he loaned me an appropriate firearm.

Hunting deer in East Texas woods bore some resemblance to hunting ducks on West Texas tanks. It was still way too early and way too cold. Before heading off in another direction, Johnny sat me under a tree to watch a nearby brush pile for the “big one.”

Ten minutes later, my first realization was despite wearing every layer of clothing I owned, it wasn’t nearly enough. Twenty minutes in, I realized the ground on which I was sitting was about as cold as the water in a West Texas tank or an East Texas pond.

The sky was turning shades of blue, like my feet, when predawn light cast shadowy details in the undergrowth. It was the biggest buck I had ever seen, actually, the only one I had ever seen. He peered around the heap of tree limbs, turning his head from side to side as his breath cast a vapor in the cold air. He moved cautiously closer. I didn’t move. I didn’t breathe. I even forgot how cold it was.

He nibbled at the remnants of winter grass as I planted the gun to my shoulder and centered the magnificent beast in the crosshairs. Through the scope, I could see details in his face and caution in his eyes.

Just as quickly as he appeared, he was gone when something caught his attention. It didn’t matter. I had already laid the gun down across my legs, content to simply gauge his reactions to the nature we both shared on a cold morning.

Sunlight was restoring my circulation when Johnny appeared from the undergrowth. “See anything?”

“Naw,” I replied. “Nearly froze to death but enjoyed watching the woods come alive at sunrise.”

Confessing that I shot nothing, I will further admit to remembering nothing about a license or even needing one for that adventure. I’m also hoping that will make it easier on me if the statute of limitations is more than 50 years.

The license last week was for a tower shoot at a Hidden Lakes Hunting Resort, a team building activity during a company business meeting.

While not a hunter, I used to shoot targets and cans. Even so, the safest place for a bird last week was still right in front of me. At least this time, I was not only legally licensed but also a little lucky. I came home with supper.

Anyone have a good recipe for pheasant, or a picture frame—one about the size of a hunting license?

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas Light and Champion  and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune.

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