The Thanksgiving holiday marks one of the greatest seasons in a Southerner’s heart – deer hunting in full swing.
Local and area hunters hit the woods last week in force, some to hunt seriously, others to enjoy nature and many to continue a family tradition.
Anna Alford of Houston falls into all three categories.
“When I was younger, I went hunting with my daddy,” Alford said of the late Billy Rish. “But I was a big squirrel hunter. I didn’t hunt deer.”
She started deer hunting as an adult and began taking her children to the woods with her as soon as they were old enough to join in.
“Rish has been going since he was probably four,” Alford said of her son. Her daughter was harder to convince.
“Claire wouldn’t go,” Alford said. “I started taking her when she was about six and she cared nothing about it. She’d play Nintendo in the tree stand.”
Claire, now 14, killed her first deer a couple of weeks ago while hunting with her father.
“That changed everything,” Alford laughed.
Rish got his first kill when he was about 8-years-old.
“Now he’s killed so many he can’t count them,” Alford said.
“About 15, I think,” added Rish. “I go into stealth mode in the stand.”
Alford’s nephew, Trey Griggs, joined them this year and is now as big a fan of hunting as the rest of the family.
Whitley Crawford of Woodland also began hunting with her father as a child and still enjoys a day in the woods.
“We usually hunt on the land behind my dad’s house,” Crawford said. “Most of the time family goes with us. He (dad) taught me the tricks. The big attraction with most people is making the kill or having the best hunting story to tell. The thrill and the time spent with loved ones means a lot because you have a good time while bonding with family.”
Eric Smith of Houston has enjoyed hunting practically his whole life, but the beauty of being in nature also drives him into the woods.
“I routinely hunt with family and friends,” Smith said. “A lot of times, I will go with a friend and just run a video camera, so we can enjoy the hunt over and over. I love scouting and trail camera surveys. Checking trail cameras is kind of like Christmas to kids. You never know what will show up in the pictures.”
Smith said the benefits of trail scouting often show up on the dinner table.
“Scouting allows a hunter to make the hunt personal by targeting a single anuimal, whether it be a trophy buck or a big, mature doe, and hunting that animal until you are successful. Deer is a regular part of the menu at home and, when prepared correctly, it’s good eating!”
smith’s wife, Kathi, accompanies him often and he said she is a good stand partner and shooter, as well.
The beauty of the earth
Whether on the hunt for the big buck, spending time bonding with friends and family or just taking a quiet break in the woods, Alford, Smith and Crawford all agree the woods are one of their favorite places to be.
“I’ll hunt with just about anyone,” Smith said. “Just say the word and I’ll go.”
“It’s the therapy I can’t pay for,” Alford smiled. “When you can sit and watch two fox and they don’t know you’re there, you’re doing something. I see a lot of God in the woods. In the silence, God is very loud.”