Back to the Woods

I had the best day yesterday!

After a weekend filled with family portrait sessions and a wedding where most of the photos were of the “smile at the camera” variety I really needed to do something different. The chance came on Sunday when my mom texted me to let me know that my dad was going to go out hunting on Monday – the opening day of deer season. A couple of his buddies had made arrangements to get him out into the woods and would be coming to pick him up in the morning.

Around here, Opening Day is a holiday on par with Memorial Day and Independence Day. It always falls on the first Monday after Thanksgiving. Schools are closed and rush hour is non-existent as hunters head for the woods. It’s a Big Deal.

Many of you know that my dad has been been battling cancer since early 2013, when he was diagnosed with a tumor on the back of his tongue. The chemo and radiation took a lot out of him and it’s been a long, hard recovery. So much so that he’s had to give up some of the activities that bring him the most joy – hunting and being outdoors.

My mom is a retired RN and has been nothing short of amazing in her care for Dad. She’s impressed everyone around them with her strength, compassion, and resolve to nurse dad back to health. Mom was extremely nervous about her patient spending the day out in the woods. I volunteered to go along and keep an eye on him so that she’d feel better. But deep down I really didn’t want to miss this. In a lot of ways, Dad going hunting on the first day of deer season was a payoff for all of the hard times and a re-entry of sorts into the life he’s always enjoyed.

I intended all along to take photos, but I also understood that there were going to be times during the day that other things were going to be more important. So I gave myself a pass for missing some moments, especially the photo that I knew would make a nice closer to the essay when dad was thanking his friends for going to the effort to bring him back out into the woods. I was busy helping him down the stairs instead. That’s OK, the important thing was that Dad had a great time and Mom didn’t spend the whole day worrying about him. I’m glad that I was able to be there.

Some photos:

Mom watches for Dad’s friend Lou who was coming to pick Dad up and take him out to his farm to hunt:


When Lou arrived Mom grabbed Dad’s gear and gave him a few parting words:


Dad heads to the stand where he’d spend the rest of the day:


Dad’s friend Lou owns 1400 acres of beautiful Western Pennsylvania farmland and forest. It was a perfect morning – crisp and cool. I spent most of the day walking around trying to scare up some deer for my Dad and his friend Bill. I also laid down in the grass and took a nap in the sun – just like back in the days when I hunted 🙂


Dad (left) and his friend Bill have been hunting together for over 50 years. The thing about hunting, at least for these guys, is that it’s a tradition that allows them to spend time with each other and to reminisce about their dads, brothers, and friends long-passed. If you pressed them they might admit that shooting a deer is way down on the list of what’s important to them about hunting.


Early in the afternoon I spotted some deer moving in the distance. They both jumped up and got ready as a group of 7 deer ran through the meadow. There were two bucks in the group but Bill didn’t think that he had a good shot at the deer, so the guys watched them run into the woods. Like I said, bagging a deer isn’t the top priority.


Life is great.