This article was written by Life Member Billy Kinder, Owner of Kinder Productions, Inc. & Host of Kinder Outdoors-SiriusXM
As I exited the woods for the very last time during deer season this year, it had a melancholy feel. Each trip is full of wonder just like that first trip when dad toted me along. This day had been wonderful as well. Cloudy, breezy, warm for mid-January with a great lack of critter movement. Still, it was a great day. As I locked down the old hunting blind and walked away with two days left in the extended Texas doe and spike hunt, I knew that this whitetail season was in the books for me. There would be no time over the next couple of days to come back, watch, walk, wait and soak up the scene. My time in the field this deer season was more limited than past years. Personal duties had demanded my attention and time, and I was paying the price—no venison.
This marks the first whitetail season with no protein in the bed of the truck since…I don’t know. We’ve run short or out of a few things like taco meat, but we’re still better stocked than a lot of grocery store shelves. Whitetail season a year ago ended with a couple of mature does in the freezer. A week or so later, a wonderful axis buck found his way next to them. We eat a lot of venison. It is our primary protein in the Kinder home, thank You Lord!
Fortunately, we still have plenty to carry us, especially when accented with the crappie fillets and turkey breasts that I plan to accumulate in the next few months. Pork is never hard to find. We like those feral hog tamales, tenderloins, peppered, German and smoked sausages. Heck, not much can beat a tow-sack half full of bullfrogs. Concerning bullfrogs and those athletic legs, you might not admit it down at the country club, or maybe you don’t even know it, but you like ‘em too! We won’t starve.
On my way down the trail a quarter mile or so to the truck, the low hanging oak branch was an uplifting sight and thought. Still two months from Spring’s first day, the tiny buds that will eventually blossom into strong healthy leaves caused me to pause, admire and take a couple of pictures. Here we go again I thought. Next season starts right now.
Robert Earl Keen wrote a great tune entitled, “The Road Goes on Forever (and the party never ends)…” The title fits how we live, think and breathe as whitetail hunters. November to a whitetailer seems like a distant birthday celebration for a six-year-old. “How many months is it?” The long arduous wait begins. We’ll watch the off season antler growth thru remote eyes fixed on our hunting grounds. Make an occasional trip to shore up the supplies. Filling our vacant and hurting hearts with big green bass, maybe a good trout trip this summer, redfish on the half shell, and a dove shoot or two. All good medicine for whitetail flu. Nothing drops a whitetail hunter’s offseason fever quite as quickly as a five-pound bass (That’s another Robert Earl Keen song) on a topwater plug. Like a good dose of nighttime chug-a-lug from the neighborhood pharmacy, the five-pounder makes you forget you ever had a cervid sniffle. An occasional follow up glance at your phone temporarily settles whitetail jitters. Your giant smile and outstretched arm, making five pounds look like twelve. Yep, we all do that.
Each opening day of the Texas Whitetail season, somewhere between 5 a.m. and sunrise, either Larry or I will lay a match to the kindling of a new whitetail fire. Tucked away in the dark, several hundred miles apart, so excited for legal light to arrive we share our joy and delight with each other over text. “Are you hunting the family property? Are the grandkids with you? I hear pigs scuffling and rooting nearby. I saw a goodun pass thru the moonlight. Gonna fry crappie tonight.”
Larry has been at this a while, and so have I. Between the two of us we have seen well over a hundred opening days, and we still get breathlessly excited to sit propped on a tree, in the dark, awaiting God’s glorious sunrise and what it might bring. And it is the same every year—overjoyed at the start and sad to see it fade away.
Hondo Crouch, the fella that turned Luckenbach Texas into an international tourist stop, once said, “Havin’ fun is hard work sometimes.” That describes perfectly the whitetailer’s spring and summer months. Scouting, documenting, feeding, hauling, moving, cleaning, building, feeding again, trimming, spraying, etc. All of this done with a smile on his or her face in anticipation of what? Pulling the trigger? Absolutely not.
When I visit the deer woods, it’s soul medicine. I breathe in fresh health. The brisk north wind ushers in the perfect finale to a Texas summer. Sparkling frost on sunlit mesquites is a light show designed by God Himself. In the pre-dawn, I listen for the wonderful sounds that are unique to the current place and time: the owl, or if I’m lucky, owls, abruptly breaking the morning still. In certain woods, the old whippoorwill eases his song through the trees. Soon a crow caws, the sun rises shortly thereafter, and a new day begins.
In the end, it is this scene, smell and sound that causes my end of season melancholy. Don’t get me wrong, big antlers make my heart race, and I will joyfully execute God’s words to Noah and his boys in Genesis Chapter 9 Verse 3 when He said, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And, as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” God said that and He hasn’t changed His mind since. So, here we go. All together now let’s watch the football game, fish the shallow spawners, call a gobbler, share pictures of our 12-pounder at the family reunion, vacation in a speckled fish hotspot, laugh it up at the dove hunt and bide our time ‘til we can lean back on that November morning and text our whitetail pals. It’s closer than it feels. Next season has already begun.