The first day of deer firearms season was Saturday. This was my 38th opening day. I've missed three openers since I was 12. For one, I was in Army basic training, and the other two my mother and I chose to celebrate Thanksgiving at the beach.

The reminiscences of my first deer season remain in my memories as if it was yesterday. Before dawn, I followed my father into the mountains of Green Ridge State Forest.


When the sun lit the mountainside, orange dots littered the landscape. The woods were covered in hunters. It was a short hunt. I had cold feet and fingers, and we could not find solace away from the other hunters. We did not kill a deer that day, but as we stopped at the local deer check in station to see the deer of the successful hunters, I knew this was a special time.

Years later, dad and I continued to hunt public lands. On Maryland's Eastern Shore we hunted Idylwild Wildlife Management Area. The competition from other hunters was less and I could hunt all day never seeing another hunter. This is the place I consider my learning grounds.

At the age of 13, I walked into the dark predawn woods of opening day by myself. Without a cell phone or any other means of communication with my father, I was allowed to wonder around and hunt alone on the 9,000 acres of mixed hardwoods and swamp from sunrise to dark. A fact that might be a little hard to comprehend in today's world of constant contact. I learned to trust my compass over my sense of direction among many other woodsman and hunter skills on that first opening day as a real hunter.

In my high school years, dad and I joined a hunting club and here is where I became a man. I killed deer, drank beer and whiskey, played poker, and listened to the stories of the old guys. Opening day at deer camp was a special time and those memories will last a lifetime.

I went off to college and joined the Army, while dad moved across the country, thus ending our opening days together. Dad was never one to talk much on the phone, but we always connected when deer season rolled around. A phone call at the end of the day on opening day was always mandatory. We may have lived miles apart, but we still shared the magic of the opener.

Then there was the few years I worked as a guide in trade for hunting the properties of a lodge in the mountains of West Virginia and Western Maryland. The camp was full of history. I spent many weekends placing stands and guiding hunters for the privilege to hunt opening day on the property. Family life pulled me away from that camp, and I soon found myself hunting the local farms close to home in Carroll County.

The most special opening day came a few years ago when I shared it with my oldest daughter. In the morning we shared a tree stand together, watching the sun burn off the morning frost, but did not see a deer. After lunch at a local restaurant and being interviewed by a Frederick newspaper, we headed out to our afternoon hunting spot.

That afternoon on opening day, she killed her first deer. Yep, my favorite opening day ever.

Interesting part of the local hunting was the number of deer I killed increased and I began to kill several deer a year with bow, muzzleloader and rifle. Rarely however, did I kill a deer on opening day of firearms season. Something was missing from my opening days spent hunting at home.

Three seasons ago, I killed a nice buck the opening minutes of the season while hunting only a few miles from my home. I guess most would call that a success, but to me I missed the adventure of hunting somewhere away from home.

Two years ago, I skipped the opener to spend it with my mother at the beach on the Outer Banks fishing for big reds, blue fish and flounder. Mom and I had a great time spending Thanksgiving week at the beach.

We shared a special Thanksgiving meal of venison and fresh local shrimp.

For the last six or so years, I've belonged to a sportsmen's club in western Maryland that has over 3,000 acres to hunt and explore. While I hunted the property a fair amount I had not been hunting the opener there until recently. Last year, I spent the first day of the season hunting the mountains of Garrett County on the club property and shot a small buck the first few minutes on opening day.

The year before mom and I went to the beach, I also spent the opening day of deer season in the mountains. During a year of life transition, I spent the day slowly walking the ridges, hunting the way I prefer, still hunting.


I remember one point in the day when I sat down leaned against a large white oak tree and as the light snow flakes fell from the sky, I prayed.

Opening day is a special day and requires special attention and adventure. For myself that translates to hunting in the mountains.

The scouting is done. I've chosen my stand location and expect to be perched 20 feet in a tree long before the sun brings the new day.

As the sun marks the beginning of yet another opening day of deer season, I'm sure my mind will reflect on those past seasons.

Even with today's longer seasons and increased bag limits, there remains something special about opening day of firearms season.