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For me and many of my outdoor buddies, Thanksgiving Day has always been reserved for a hunt of some kind.
During the years of my youth, from when I was 12 years old, it was upland game such as squirrels, rabbits and pheasants that garnered out attention.
This was back in the late 1940s and it was not uncommon to see a 12-year-old kid walking through the Village of South Meriden with a shotgun or .22 rifle tucked under his arm as he went hunting on one of the many farms in the Village.
One of our favorite hunting spots was the farm owned by an old bachelor by the name of Ernie Raven. Even as teens we would help out on the farm when it came time to make hay or, later in the year, bringing in the corn to make silage for Raven’s small herd of milking cows.
Helping out on local farms such as Raven’s, Godek’s, and Philippe earned us the privilege to hunt on their lands. Unfortunately, the farms have disappeared under the guise of development, both commercial and domestic.
A teenager walking the streets of the Village with a firearm was never a cause for alarm back then. Even the police who patrolled the area would just give us a friendly wave or stop and ask where we were going and then told us to be careful.
Just about every male teenager in the Village had access to a firearm and, would you believe, there was never a killing of another human being or a drive-by shooting?
Raven’s Lane, now a private road that leads to a couple of residences and the Meriden Rod & Gun Club, was a mecca for our hunting forays as teenagers. Squirrels were our No. 1 quarry and the teenage champs of our squirrel hunting were the Hanlon boys, Neal, Mike and Tom.
Of course, back then, there were no computers, iPhones, video games and other electronic gizmos to take up our time. We turned to the great outdoors in the form of hunting, trapping and fishing and even just plain shooting firearms to occupy our time.
I can see some parents shuddering, even now, at the thought of a legal firearm in the hands of a teenager, but back then it was a way of life.
The kids did not always hunt alone. Many times it would be with the fathers of some of the kids who hunted, and there were many of them back then. Just imagine a father taking the time to hunt with a group of kids and showing them the right way to hunt and use a firearm. Sort of boggles the mind, doesn’t it?
They were men like my father Mike; the Hanlon boys’ father Lou or their Uncle Phil Fisher; Art Arnold Sr. and sons Charlie, Artie and Howie and their bird champion bird dogs; George Metzger and sons Rudy and Eddie and their beagle, Spot.
Even kids whose fathers didn’t hunt were invited to hunt with us with the blessing of their parents.
Another hunting buddy of mine back then was Jack Sears. We would hunt Raven’s and surrounding farms from sunup to sunset. We never got a lot of small game, but what we did harvest would be honored on our dinner tables as food to be enjoyed.
One of my fondest memories of hunting with Jack Sears was a frosty morning on the corner of Raven’s Farm in a small apple orchard that had been left to grow wild. I had a springer spaniel named “Chip” and Jack had a beagle named “Toughie,” and it didn’t matter to the dogs or us what type of game they found.
We were in the orchard when one of the dogs flushed a cock pheasant. Jack dropped it with a single shot.
Just then another cock pheasant took wing and I was able to put it in my game bag.
For two teenagers, it made a beautiful fall morning even more splendid. It did not get any better than that.
We took time out to enjoy the moment and I can still remember picking one of those wild apples and savoring flavor made even better by the frosty morning. I guess that’s what hunting does. It makes for pleasant memories that last a lifetime.
As we got older I eventually got caught up in the passion of deer hunting, with hunting wild turkey coming in a close second.
It was the deer, though, that garnered my attention on Thanksgiving morning. In the early years of the Connecticut deer season, it would be black powder hunting on Thanksgiving Day, with most of the muzzleloader deer hunting being done on state controlled land.
One of my most memorable black powder deer hunts took place on a spot owned by the power company at Bulls Bridge off the Housatonic River. I had scouted the area a couple of times and, on opening morning, I arrived only to see another vehicle parked next to me.
I greeted the other hunter and then headed up the mountain to my pre-chosen spot before it got light. I was no sooner settled down on my spot when I saw a flashlight headed in my direction. It was the hunter that parked next to me on the highway.
Sure enough, he came right up to me and said he had a treestand already placed in a tree above us. He offered to move it. I told him it would be easier for me just to move down a bit, so I did,
About 15 minutes after the season opened, I heard the gent fire his muzzleloader and it did not make me too happy.
About a half-hour later, I heard a commotion in the leaves behind me and saw a buck chasing a doe. They stopped right behind me. I could not get a shot at the buck, but the doe made for some mighty fine venison meals.
So why not get out this Thanksgiving morning and take a youngster with you and build some Thanksgiving Day hunting memories. I promise you, they are priceless.
The Meriden Motorcycle Club on Stantack Road (the left after Suzio/York Hill Quarry) will hold a Turkey Shoot this Sunday, Nov. 22, on club grounds starting at noon.
There will be no breakfast as previously mentioned because of COVID-19. Call George Eddy at 203-237-2377 for further info.
That’s it, gang. Happy Thanksgiving and stay safe! See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops, police, firefighters and first responders wherever they may be serving our great country.