Hunting in the Northeast states takes place in the fall and is such an important part of our rural heritage. There is nothing like seeing your son or daughter get their first deer, moose, bird or bear. Although Vermont’s official hunting season starts around September 1 and ends in December, the last two full weeks in November are referred to as “hunting season” in my household. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against hunting, but I don’t consider hunting season a national holiday.

I am fortunate that my husband does not go to camp for a week; he walks out the front door and hunts. From what I have overheard about hunting camps, I think the food planning is as important as the hunting experience. I have actually been privy to conversations that go something like this: “Jerry is bringing a pot of chili. Stan’s wife is cooking a turkey. Jeff is bringing venison stew. I am picking up eggs and bacon. Can you make a double batch of brownies?”

Since my husband and his friend consider our home their temporary hunting camp, I always have enough food for 10 hungry hunters. Usually there is a maximum of three people at my kitchen table. The dogs also get special treatment during our “two-week holiday.” I can’t let them outside because they might scare the deer away. These are the same dogs I let out the same door at the same time every other morning. The deer ignore them.

I went hunting once and tried to get into the holiday spirit. I borrowed some festive hunting clothes and started my day with a big breakfast, of course. My son had just obtained his youth hunting license and needed an adult to go with him. I had taken the Hunter’s Safety course so that qualified me. He was so anxious to get into the woods that he couldn’t wait for his dad to get home from work. I trudged through the woods, perched on a tree stump, and he sat not too far from me looking in the opposite direction. After 15 minutes of watching squirrels chase each other, listening for a twig to snap, and trying to keep warm, I decided I really needed a bottle of nail polish. I could have put two coats on my nails, and they would have dried perfectly in the cold temperature. We did not see a deer that morning, and I was relieved. I knew if my son shot a buck, there was no way I could help gut it out.

I have helped my husband drag deer out of the woods, and am always proud to be part of the experience. However I don’t need to hear every detail of the pursuit. To me it’s pretty straightforward, either you shot the deer or you didn’t. I don’t want to know how many branches it broke going through the woods, how many times you looked at it to see if it was a spike horn, how far you had to shoot, and on and on. Can you imagine any wife describing a shopping trip to her husband with such detail? She would surely get that “deer-in-the-headlights look.”

I am always thankful when my family shoots a deer because there is nothing like fresh venison fried in real butter. I am also thankful that my family values the significance of Thanksgiving Day, and that being together is more important than hunting.

God bless all families on Thanksgiving, and watch over our hunters to keep them safe.

MAPLE MARINATED VENISON

  • 2 – 3 pounds of venison
  • ¾ cup of maple syrup
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  1. Mix all ingredients together. Marinate meat for 4 hours
  2. Broil or barbeque until meat is done; baste frequently.

Cover photo: SteveOehlenschlager