A Thanksgiving tradition

By HUNTER HILL
Posted 12/11/19

Flurries gusted by as the clouds rolled overhead, making for a slightly grey and indecisively chilly Thanksgiving Day. Braving the brisk morning stood my wife and family, clicking shell after shell …

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A Thanksgiving tradition

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Flurries gusted by as the clouds rolled overhead, making for a slightly grey and indecisively chilly Thanksgiving Day. Braving the brisk morning stood my wife and family, clicking shell after shell into their shotguns with subtle excitement for the tradition we were about to embark on. Adorned in orange vests and hats, pockets filled with ammunition and guns at the ready, we lined up along the edge of the long open field where our objective lay in wait.

As we headed into the field, one of the family bird dogs circled ahead, pacing left and right gathering scent as she headed into the wind. The young German shorthair pointer soon came to a sudden halt, and our family festivities officially began. Barrels rose in likeminded accord. At the prompting of my stepmother’s foot, our ring-necked quarry flushed from the tall grass and into the sky, swiftly met with the barking report of the family’s firearm salute.

Every year for the past decade, our family has gone on a bird hunt the morning of Thanksgiving. It started with just my dad, sister, step-mother and me. Since then, my wife has joined, my sister’s new husband and our grandfather. With the added company, the anticipation and expectation of this family outing has grown each year, and even the grandeur of the hunt itself. This year we harvested 13 pheasants and 11 chucker partridges. You may be asking, “What about the turkey?” Not to worry. After finishing our hunt, each year we enjoy the luxury of returning home to a fully prepared meal more family members with whom we share the photos of our morning hunt.

My father, who owns Adam Hill Hunting Adventures, stocks our hunt with a surprise variety of upland game birds. We hunt over the family dogs, sometimes those retired from the working lineup, just to get them out and exercised. The entire affair is a gentlemen’s hunt, as my dad describes it. We stroll through the tall grass across an open flat field overlooking some of the most gorgeous Delaware River valley views, not at all rushed and constantly engaged as the dog points out one bird after another. Sometimes, however, things do get a little fast paced. For example, about halfway through the hunt this year, we flushed a bird from its hiding spot in the grass—only the bird didn’t fly. You can’t shoot a bird still on the ground, and to the surprise of my brother in law, the ring-neck cock bird began to sprint like a roadrunner straight up the field. Blinking in bewilderment, he snapped out of it only when my father began to bellow, “Run him down!” So off ran my sister’s husband, gun across his chest, sprinting behind the bird to close the distance. As he was almost upon the bird, it finally took flight and, in a dramatic moment of relief, he stopped and took aim before dropping the pheasant from the sky. As he picked up the bird and returned to our line, my dad made the comment, “Boy, he makes a good bird dog, doesn’t he?”

The way out here is filled with tradition. But I will say, tradition is nothing without the family to enjoy it—I might also add, it’s nothing without those in the family who bring about unexpected moments of laughter. Here’s hoping all of you had a happy Thanksgiving as well.

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