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The Hunter’s Tradition: Gathering

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October 27, 2010

The Hunter’s Tradition: Gathering

By Steven Rinella

It’s been 389 years since the Pilgrims celebrated their first Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Mass. While scholars are still arguing over details of what happened during the three-day feast, I can guarantee a couple of facts: The Pilgrims were not watching football during those three days, and they were eating venison.

As much as possible, my friends and I stay true to these original traditions by gathering for our annual Thanksgiving feast at my brother Matt’s house in Miles City, Mont. It’s a place surrounded by a tremendous variety of delicious wild game, and the Thanksgiving season happens to be a perfect time to gather it. We disperse in the early-morning darkness in groups of three or four. Some of us might head south with a load of goose decoys to set up in a winter-wheat field along the Tongue River; then, in the late morning, we swap our steel BB shot for lead and head toward the cattail- and willow-coated islands where heavily pressured pheasants tend to gather. Others might head east to the badlands above the Yellowstone River to glass for mule deer; once the sun is high, they’ll take .22s to look for cottontails that are sunning themselves outside of abandoned prairie-dog burrows.

We gather back at the house in the late afternoon. Half of us do prep work in the kitchen, and half of us go to the garage for skinning and plucking duties. Our kill of the day is rounded out by the offerings that everyone brought in from his corner of the country: smoked salmon from Alaska, dried morels from Washington, an elk loin from southwest Montana.

It’s difficult to argue that these are “traditional” Thanksgiving meals, especially since no two are ever the same. Yet, to me, the tradition runs deeper than just a matter of ingredients. Each meal is a celebration of the land, the animals, and the skills that allow us to thrive here. These are things for which every outdoorsman should be thankful. —Steven Rinella

Comments (4)

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from 007 wrote 3 years 24 weeks ago

Great post here! Thanksgiving comes during the first week of deer season for us. Our deer gang usually quits early so folks can go to be with their families. My kids and I will hunt till dark if we aren't tagged out or whatever, then it's back to the house for a traditional supper of turkey, dressing, etc. It's usually the immediate family of mom, my wife, our two kids, sometimes a kid's boy or girlfriend, and me. Before we eat we always go around the table and tell what we're thankful for. Deer season hangs heavy, of course, but the tradition, the holiday, and the spirit of thankfulness take precedence. We are blessed.

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from iowahunter18 wrote 3 years 24 weeks ago

Pheasants would taste good for a Thanksgiving meal, but there are no pheasants in Iowa.

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from 2Poppa wrote 3 years 24 weeks ago

007-
Well said, and I agree!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nolan wrote 3 years 23 weeks ago

Awesome post!

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from 007 wrote 3 years 24 weeks ago

Great post here! Thanksgiving comes during the first week of deer season for us. Our deer gang usually quits early so folks can go to be with their families. My kids and I will hunt till dark if we aren't tagged out or whatever, then it's back to the house for a traditional supper of turkey, dressing, etc. It's usually the immediate family of mom, my wife, our two kids, sometimes a kid's boy or girlfriend, and me. Before we eat we always go around the table and tell what we're thankful for. Deer season hangs heavy, of course, but the tradition, the holiday, and the spirit of thankfulness take precedence. We are blessed.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 3 years 24 weeks ago

007-
Well said, and I agree!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from iowahunter18 wrote 3 years 24 weeks ago

Pheasants would taste good for a Thanksgiving meal, but there are no pheasants in Iowa.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Nolan wrote 3 years 23 weeks ago

Awesome post!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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