Giving Thanks

This week we all gather with family and friends to give thanks for Gods blessings on this country, and the bounty we enjoy. As hunters and anglers, we should be especially thankful to our forefathers’ conservation efforts for that bounty. No other nation in the world enjoys the bountiful wildlife of the United States or the bounty of opportunities we enjoy to pursue our sports. In my first life in the Army, I got to travel to different countries. In Korea, the only place you can hunt (and that’s just for pheasant) is an island off the southeast coast of the country. Gun ownership is severely restricted. Although there may be fish in the countries lakes and streams, I don’t remember seeing a whole lot of folks doing it.

Germany has a long history associated with hunting and fishing, if you’ve got the money. That history is typically associated with the landed gentry and most of the traditions that are part of the sport today started hundreds of years ago.

Hunters receive their license in a formal ceremony that is part of the tradition.

But again, gun ownership is restricted and people who want to hunt must go through a lengthy training course and then pay high fees to hunt on public land. No ten hour safety course, buy a gun, and head to the woods there. I had the opportunity to hunt in both countries, simply because of my military status, something the average citizen can’t do. Although I appreciate the traditions associated with German hunting, I enjoy the bounty and opportunities here even more.

I’m thankful for my friendships established through hunting, fishing and shooting experiences. In fact, I’m not sure I’d enjoy the outdoors as much without those friends. Sure it’s great to go hunting or fishing by myself sometimes. But doing it with a friend always brings a new level of enjoyment to the experience. As serious as the pursuit of game is, our approach is not so serious. I’ve never met a hunter or angler who takes the sport so serious that they can’t laugh at the muffed shot or big fish that threw a hook. At least none of my friends are like that. If I ever run across one of those folks it will probably be our last encounter. Hunting and fishing is too much fun to take seriously.

I give thanks every day for the wisdom of our founding fathers in writing the Second Amendment. Again we are fortunate in this freedom compared to the rest of the world. We shot skeet at a Korean range when I was there. Gun owners there must keep their guns locked up in the police station and check them out when they want to shoot. Unfortunately, there are those in this country who don’t understand the importance of this freedom and would like to take it away. We must remain ever vigilant.

I’m eternally thankful for hunting dogs, and particularly English Setters. I seriously doubt I would ever hunt again if it wasn’t for the dogs. It’s not just about the ability to find game. Let’s say dogs bring a certain personality to the experience? Anyone who has had a setter give them a woeful look after their solid point was wasted by a missed shot knows of what I speak. And anyone who has followed a pack of beagles on the hot trail of a cottontail on a cool November morning will attest to the beautiful sound their voices make during the chase. Yep, dogs make it all worthwhile.

There are a lot of other things on my outdoor thankful for list: the slim lines of a side by side shotgun (which I usually can’t afford), friends who share their venison, dove fields and lots of shells, beeper collars for thick mountain cover, and Express 7 ½ loads.  Since it is Thanksgiving let me not forget the wild turkeys that like to converse with me; just out of shotgun range. And how can I forget being thankful for the trout that is occasionally foolish enough to rise to my sloppy presentation. The list could go on.

There is one last thing we should all be thankful for and that is all the freedom we enjoy. As we sit down with family and friends to dine on turkey with all the fixings, a soldier or Marine somewhere in Afghanistan is eating an MRE. I’ve spent the holidays away from family. It’s a lonely time. Let us never forget that the freedoms and blessing we enjoy are thanks to those willing to sacrifice so that we may. Happy Thanksgiving.