All the components of a perfect Opening Day

Published 11:00 pm Saturday, December 1, 2012

It depends to a large extent on who you’re talking to, but the term “Opening Day” doesn’t mean when our forebears were back in the Garden of Eden, eating peaches. If you mention that in late summer or early fall, everyone knows with certainty that you are referring to the Opening Day of any of a half-dozen hunting seasons.

Thanksgiving marks the opening of deer gun season in most places, as well as quail season. Soon duck season arrives and a real sportsman is faced with the possibilities of taking the decoys and shotguns along with the 30/06 and drag strap. God planned it all thataway.

The cold weather hit around here for Opening Day. It was a clear but windless dawn, the frost crisping up the grass and leaves in the pre-dawn darkness. In my experience, that would be good. It always has seemed that the deer don’t move quite as early on such a day, but they do get really active once the sun bumps over the horizon, when you are in your stand.

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Settled in, with a cup of coffee from the thermos hanging from a nail on the tree beside the stand, and you wonder once again if deer can smell coffee, and if it smells as good to them as it does to you.

Movement to the right in the dry grass along the trail — a couple of coyotes slipping back to sleep off their night’s hunting. Shortly, there’s a gray-spotted blur behind a briar patch, which turns out to be a bobcat. Beautiful!

There’s a brown form out there just behind a buckbrush, and it moved. Are those antlers glinting in the sun, or a bare branch? Bare branch, but it’s a doe who tiptoes into the edge of a clearing, then she pulls the old, “Look back behind me” trick just as I’ve decided that maybe she’s big enough for the freezer.

The scope reveals no antlers behind the lying doe, but now she’s fed into a plum thicket that will never reveal a clear shot. It worked again.

The cup replenished from the steaming thermos soundlessly and with hardly any detectable movement, I lean back against the sycamore just as the rays of the sun begin to warm my outside while the coffee warms the inside.

That would be the start of my perfect Opening Day. It would be many times more perfect if I really was there.

See, I picked up an exotic little bug a few months ago, which took a while to convince me to seek professional medical treatment, then a little while longer for the aforesaid professional medicos to figure out and treat, then a little while longer to actually get that little sucker defeated and in remission, then a little while longer to identify another exotic infection from the same era that makes the victim’s red blood cells pass off before they’re half grown, resulting in a diagnosis of severe anemia right before a woman’s voice proclaims, “Don’t you even THINK about climbing up in a deer stand, even in your own back yard!”

Have you too reached the automatic “Yessum” stage? Sure was a pretty day.

Robert Hitt Neill is an outdoors writer. He lives in Leland, Miss. Email him at