Hunting trip about family bonding

By Karl Terry: CNJ columnist

Deer hunting came full circle for my brother and I last week but it’s remarkable just how much things have changed.

The circle came when family members including my brother and I planned a deer hunting trip earlier this year to the same canyon where my dad first took my brother and I hunting 36 years ago.

It has been 25 to 30 years since the two of us have been in a deer camp together and we figured it had been more than a dozen years since either of us had been deer hunting separate of each other.

When I quit deer hunting 13 years ago it was because there were entirely too many people tramping the woods of Colorado that I didn’t trust with a rifle. Deer hunting in New Mexico has changed a lot too.

Gone are the days when you could stop at Surplus City on the way out of town and buy a license that gave you a tag for a deer, bear and turkey. Now you have to plan everything in the spring and apply for a deer permit, which is restricted to just a portion of the total deer season and to one specific area or game management unit.

I’ve got to say that game officials have allayed my fears of too many uncommitted hunters in the field with the draw system they have in place — in fact I was amazed at how few hunters were in our canyon compared to the numbers we saw 36 years ago. To my untrained eye it appears they have lowered the deer harvest greatly as well since hardly any of the camps I encountered (including mine) had a deer hanging in it.

Other things that have changed include the equipment. When we first started going my brother and I both carried rifles that were bought used and had iron sights, extra ammo a borrowed knife and an Army surplus canteen. Now hunters have telescopic sights, range finders spotting scopes and binoculars. You can spend hundreds of dollars on guns and knives and high tech clothing, boots and packs.

I now have a rifle that I actually bought new about 25 years ago with a scope on it but the folding Buck knife I found on the high school parking lot when I was 17 and the circa 1975 plastic orange hunting vest seemed a little inadequate on this trip.

On that first trip my brother and I slept on the floor of a homemade plywood camper in the back of the pickup. We drank water from a single dipper in a cream can and fixed our meals by the light of an old pump-up Coleman lantern on an ancient camp stove placed on the pickup tailgate.

This time we stayed in a self-contained travel trailer with thermostat-controlled heat, hot and cold water, refrigerator, shower and toilet.

Roughing it, huh?

No, we didn’t kill any deer. In fact, the only legal bucks we saw during the five-day hunt ran through camp while I was fixing breakfast one mid-morning. My rifle was unloaded and they made the top of the hill before I could remedy that situation.

But I learned a long time ago a good time in the outdoors is not about the game you slay or the numbers or size of fish you catch.

It’s about recalling memories of past trips, enjoying the company of those with you and being close to each day God has granted you.

God granted us some really beautiful days on this trip, my brother and I relived the old days and made some new memories with our nephew. In my book it was a huge success.