Every hunter has his or her favorite time of the season to be in the woods. Some love the early season opener, while others live for the opportunity to spend long hours in the stand during the rut. As for me, I love the holiday hunts I share with my family over Thanksgiving and Christmas break.
From their earliest days, my kids and I have hunted Thanksgiving morning before sharing in the family feast around noon. The tradition started while hunting for deer, and sometimes goose, during our years living in Montana. My daughter, Avery, and oldest son, Aidan, loved to climb into the ground blind with a pack full of snacks and a small heater at our feet as we waited out whitetails in the river bottoms of western Montana.
Our success rate on deer was slim in those early days. We had a few close calls, but more times than not, the noise level coming from the knuckleheads in our blind sent deer in the other direction long before the shot opportunity occurred.
My family has grown since those days, and now all four of the kids enjoy the opportunity to kick off the holiday season with a morning sit for deer on Thanksgiving morning near our home in Tennessee. These Thanksgiving hunts have historically been some of the most exciting days of our deer season.
Deer activity is at an all-time high during Thanksgiving week, with rutty bucks making their final rounds in pursuit of an estrous doe. But regardless of deer encounters, my family enjoys these special moments in the deer woods when nothing else matters but making fresh memories.
For a few short days, we take a break from work, school, and chores to relax, renew and refocus on family – and hopefully kill a few deer along the way.
With my daughter in her first year of college this fall, the opportunities to hit the woods have been much fewer and farther between. Her only requests when she arrived home for the break were to catch up on momma’s cooking and spend time in the deer woods on Thanksgiving morning.
With a hectic fall soccer schedule over the last few years, she hadn’t notched a deer in quite some time. She was anxious and feeling the itch. So with a steady north wind blowing in our favor, we headed to the woods early on Thanksgiving morning.
Our hide for the morning was a log pile I had built a few weeks prior to break outlines and give Avery the perfect perch to rest her Mossberg Patriot rifle if/when the deer showed up.
We weren’t waiting long when a deer approached our setup shortly after sunrise. Avery was the first to see the deer slowly walking up the draw in front of us. He was lonely and looking. The deer walked left to right in front of our setup and came to an abrupt stop when he walked up on the mock scrape my son had freshened earlier in the morning on the way to his treestand.
Avery eased the gun up onto the log and found the deer in her crosshairs. She quickly flipped the safety off and squeezed the trigger on the rifle. Fire flashed from the muzzle of her gun in the low light of early morning, and the deer hit the ground.
It was her first deer in several years, and the first deer taken with the new Mossberg Patriot .308 she held in her hands. We smiled, hugged, high-fived, and laughed at the fact that she had scored before her brothers.
We collected our gear and made the short walk to her spike buck lying just 35 yards away. It was a beautiful moment as we celebrated the opportunity.
My daughter has never been much on deer age or antler size. She simply loves the moment and the memories made.
We were all smiles back at the skinning shed as we boned out meat for the freezer while mom was busy in the house preparing food for the Thanksgiving table. It was the perfect way to kick off the holiday season.
The sights, smells, moments, and memories of hunting during the holiday season will forever be among my family’s favorites. They are the hunts we look forward to the most, year after year.
Holiday Hunting Gear List
- Mossberg Patriot .308
- Vortex 3x9 Scope
- Federal Ammunition
- Mossy Oak Camo
- LaCrosse Boots