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Here in Northwest Florida, we haven’t forgotten the true significance of Thanksgiving. Even as we gorge ourselves on fried turkey, barbecue and assorted veggie-and-cheese casseroles, we always remember that the last Thursday in November also marks the first day of general gun season in Zone D. We can look forward to four days of hunting – interrupted only by food and football – followed by a two-week hiatus before it starts up again in December.
Because I’m sentimental about history, I want to point out to younger readers that it hasn’t always been this way. There was a time when the season started on the first or second weekend of November and ran until early January. Most of us who hunt regularly were happy about that change because it extended the season into February when the deer up here start the rut.
The only person I know who had any trouble with it was my father.
In early December several years ago, a friend of his named George Burch flagged him down as Daddy was driving down Hugh Creek Road. George was opening a smokehouse and he had a special offer: If Daddy killed a deer, George would clean it, grind it up and make smoked venison sausage, all for $55.
The “cleaning” part was all Daddy needed to hear. He was already on his way to the camp and had a doe tag in his glove compartment. He wasn’t even gone an hour before he came driving back up to George’s place with a big doe in the back of his old Bronco.
I saw George a couple of weeks later and he recounted the conversation when my father drove up:
DADDY: “Here you go, George. I got a doe in back.”
GEORGE: “Gene, that’s illegal.”
DADDY: “No it ain’t. I’ve got a doe permit right here.”
GEORGE: “That’s fine, but it isn’t hunting season now.”
GEORGE: “Gene, hunting season ends after Thanksgiving weekend. It doesn’t come back in until December.”
DADDY: “When did that start?”
GEORGE: “About five years ago.”
DADDY: “Well, they didn’t tell me. Now, come get this deer. I want to get home before the football game starts.”
I don’t ever remember him saying it, but Daddy probably should have been thankful that Calhoun County didn’t have more game wardens.
I’m pretty sure George was, at least right then.