For foodies and coffee lovers, the autumn months are punctuated with pumpkin spice, but for many Oklahomans the season is not complete without a trek into the woods for some family time.
Oklahoma families have enjoyed hunting for generations, and many avid hunters continue to pass the tradition onto their children and grandchildren. The crisp air and thrill of a deer in their sights are what many Oklahomans picture when they talk about an ideal Thanksgiving week.
Deer hunting seasons for those with bows or primitive firearms have already begun, but Nov. 18 signals the start of gun season; thousands use that weekend and the days leading up to Thanksgiving as an annual retreat into nature.
Hunting as a sport has many benefits for those who enjoy it; most see it as way to spend quality time outdoors with relatives, enjoy the serenity of the Oklahoma wilderness and, if they are lucky enough, return home with some stories to tell – plus venison for Thanksgiving dinner.
Mike Green, of Bixby, says deer hunting is the ultimate catharsis. He has been embedded in hunting culture for as long as he can remember, with his dad, grandfather, uncles and cousins all being passionate hunters.
“I’ve been hunting since I was about 9; it just came natural to me,” he says.
Green recalls that his favorite part of hunting is basking in the peacefulness of nature and the feeling of pride that comes with bringing home fresh meat for the table.
“I love getting away from all the noise and pressure of everyday life,” he says.
Green’s crowning achievement came when he shot a 13-point buck.
“It scored high enough to be in the Oklahoma record book. I never submitted it, but I know it,” he says.
Ty Montgomery, also of Bixby, began hunting with his dad when he was 12. Over the years, he hunted alongside friends, too, but his fondest memories have come from trips with his daughter, Cami, who started hunting when she was 10. Cami has been hunting ever since; she killed her first deer when she was 12.
The elder Montgomery takes pride in his ability to teach his daughter how to hunt, clean her own food and survive on her own.
Montgomery says his best hunting story comes from the time he took his wife, son and daughter out on a trip.
“It was the last day of the season and we were going to shoot a doe,” he says. “It was pouring down rain and tornado sirens were going off. The fields were flooded so bad that the water was running like a creek.”
The Montgomerys scrambled up into their deer stands before deciding to go home. They had to wade through the water all the way back to their truck.
“It was the dumbest trip, but I will never forget it,” he says.
And that’s the case for many Oklahomans. Deer hunting is less about bagging a buck and more about the adventures and tales that come with it. It provides them with the very essence of fall, when more memories are sure to be made.