By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Thanksgiving and hunting season go hand-in-hand for many area families and outdoorsmen.
Don Jackson, 63, of Peterstown is better known as a football coach at James Monroe High School, but during his free time Jackson is an avid outdoorsman trekking through the rural scenery in Monroe County. Sometimes, Jackson said he will find his family’s Thanksgiving meal while hunting in his backyard.
Jackson said his love of hunting began as a youngster.
“I started hunting when I was 13,” Jackson said. “My older brother took me squirrel hunting. Most young people then started with squirrel hunting. My love of hunting grew from that. My father was a big bird hunter, and a lot of my brothers were in to rabbit hunting. For us, it was a mix of the sport and getting outside, being outdoors. Not many of my brothers hunt any more, but I still enjoy it. Most of my hunting growing up was more for sport than putting food on the table. We didn’t depend on game to eat like some families.”
Jackson said hunting is a tradition for many area families
“It goes back to our ancestors and grandparents in particular,” Jackson said. “My dad said that during the Great Depression, there wasn’t as much to eat so they would trap rabbits. Hunting is something we have lost. We are losing our tradition not just of family hunting trips but even just going out to shoot a bow or rifle as target practice in the backyard. I don’t know many people who hunt just to put food on the table anymore, but then again you don’t have to bring anything home to enjoy the experience.”
Grouse hunting in particular is a favorite pastime for Jackson. He said his bird dog Gypsy is his companion on those trips.
“Grouse hunting has always been my favorite,” Jackson said. “I used to have a bird dog named Delta after the song ‘Delta Dawn’ and she was my constant companion while I was hunting. She’s since passed and now I have Gypsy. The main object is for the dog to point the bird, but there is also a companionship in training the dog and spending time with the dog. They can also help retrieve the game. Gypsy pretty much helps me out on all my grouse hunting trips.”
However, this time of year deer and turkey are the main game Jackson is looking for.
“I hunt whatever is in season,” he said. “When I was younger, there weren’t as much turkey and deer but now they are everywhere. Deer and turkey are especially plentiful this time of year. Hunters predominantly are looking for them this time of year.”
Jackson said turkey can be a challenging animals to hunt, whether during the fall or spring turkey seasons.
“Turkey hunting puts your skills against the bird’s,” he said. “You have to match their skill with turkey calls and turkeys are well-known for their great eyesight. Especially in the spring, you have to know the woods as well as they do. There is a lot of challenge with turkeys. In the spring season, the gobblers are mating and will respond to calls. In the fall, the birds are usually in the flock, so you have to disperse the flock and then call manage to call one back into the area. It’s difficult to do.”
In addition to matching the skill of the animal, Jackson said he finds bowhunting adds to the challenge.
“I enjoy bowhunting both deer and turkey,” Jackson said. “Bowhunting is much more of a challenge than with a rifle because you have to be a minimum of 20 to 30 yards away from the animal. Deer especially have a great sense of smell, great hearing and good eyesight. You are on the buck’s turf and he has a better chance of detecting you. With bowhunting, the animal has more of a fighting chance whereas with rifle hunting you can be much further away from the animal. I don’t think that is as sporting.”
Jackson said he finds wild turkey make for a much more fulfilling Thanksgiving meal.
“Wild turkey are much different than the tame turkey,” he said. “The wild turkey has been running and flying, so his muscles have been more active. The wild animals also eat a much wider variety of food than the farm-raised turkey you buy from a store. I think wild turkeys make for better eating. It’s really rewarding to bring something home to share with everyone at the table as well. There is a sense of accomplishment.”
Sometimes, Jackson said he finds the best hunting ground is his own backyard.
“I hunt on my own property out of my own backdoor or on my brother’s property,” Jackson said. “There are animals here everywhere. Monroe County is a great habitat for deer and turkey. We have squirrels, rabbits and coyotes all over the place. I ride my four wheeler less than an eighth of a mile from my backyard most of the time. Sometimes, I don’t even leave my backdoor. Some of the biggest bucks I’ve gotten I shot from my back deck.”
Even if he doesn’t bag a big deer or turkey, Jackson said he never regrets a hunting trip.
“I have a great time even if I don’t come home with anything,” he said. “Even if I don’t see any animals while I’m out there, I still love being outdoors and in the fresh air. You get outdoors and you can just get away from your stress. Hunting is a great stress reliever.”
However, Jackson is hoping to bring something home when he goes out Thanksgiving week for the start of deer (rifle) season.
“I am going out deer hunting over the next week,” Jackson said. “My deer hunting for the rifle season is primarily for a trophy. I am more selective when I am rifle hunting than when I am bowhunting. Last year, I saw a lot of bucks during the season, but I didn’t shoot any because they weren’t large enough to warrant it.”
Jackson said his biggest hope is that the next generation will develop their own love of the outdoors.
“A lot of kids aren’t as active as they used to be,” he said. “They spend too much of their time on computers and with their game consoles. They aren’t getting outside as much as they should. Hunting is a great opportunity for both boys and girls to be outdoors and stay active. We have a lot of wonderful female hunters in Monroe County. Hunting is a great time to really explore the outdoors and develop a good hobby. I would encourage all kids to get out and take up bow or rifle hunting. It’s something positive for them to get involved in.”
— Contact Kate Coil at firstname.lastname@example.org�