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Vandiver: Time to make family memories with outdoors traditions
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Russell Vandiver, right, son Josh, left, and grandson Jackson participated in the start of dove season over the weekend. - photo by For The Times

Dove season opened Saturday, signaling the start of our family hunting traditions of the fall.

These traditions include opening of dove season followed by opening days of bow season, muzzle loading season and gun season in Georgia, and for the last 10 years opening day of deer season in Ohio, at the end of September.

What makes this dove hunt such a great tradition? You start with a well-prepared dove field, equally well prepared BBQ lunch, a couple boxes of clay pigeons, multiple boxes of shotgun shells, favorite shotguns, tailgate of a Chevrolet HD truck used for a serving table and, of course, family and good friends.

I was blessed to share this opening day of dove season with my son Josh, grandson Jackson and Chewy, their chocolate lab, along with some of our best friends and several hundred doves. I have enjoyed this traditional opening of hunting season for 50 years, but this year was very special to me since “Every day is Saturday.”

The weather was spectacular for the dove hunt Saturday, even though, as usual, it was very warm. The birds fed very late in the day, but we were able to harvest close to a limit of 15 doves per hunter. I am amazed at how many shots it takes to harvest each bird.

The birds always seem to know exactly when to turn and fly in an erratic pattern, just when you think you have figured out how to make a good shot.

Chewy and Jackson did a great job locating birds that always seem to go in the worst thicket off the field. There was a lot of time earlier in the afternoon to think about the amount of work and expense that is required to have a successful dove hunt, especially when there were no birds flying.

My calculations were interesting: plowing and planting $500, shotgun shells $150, dove decoys $100, food and beverages $100, the pure enjoyment of sharing this great outdoor tradition with three generations of hunters from the Vandiver family and friends ... PRICELESS!!

Saturday is opening day of bow season in Georgia.

My grandson Jackson will be attempting to exceed his success of last year’s opening day when he took a nice buck and a doe with his cross bow.

We have a lot of really nice bucks on our trail cameras this year and are very optimistic that we have them patterned. My son Josh will be guiding Jackson as he did last year on opening day.

The tremendous rainfall we have had has provided a lot of natural food for the deer to browse. However, I have been surprised how scattered the acorn crop is this year. I have found some really good white oak acorns, but the red oaks seem to have not grown to their normal size, perhaps due to excessive rainfall.

Find the white oaks and you will find the deer, as they are candy for white tail deer. I enjoy the tradition of bow hunting as it gives me an opportunity to be in the woods as the weather changes from summer to fall and witness the temperature changes, leaves changing colors and watching all types of wildlife prepare for the coming cooler weather.

The most recent trip to our lease in Ohio provided a chance to see some outstanding bucks feeding in soy bean fields. The beans have grown incredibly this year and several fields are head tall on the deer. It is amazing to see a huge set of antlers above the beans as the bucks eat in the fields in the afternoons.

The deer are very healthy up there this year with many of the does with twin fawns and some with triplets; what a beautiful sight to see, the beautiful spotted fawns running along the edge of the bean fields.

I look forward every year to the tradition of opening day in Ohio because it always seems to provide some of the most exciting hunting of the season and a chance to spend quality time with my son Josh. Hopefully, we will be able take his son Jackson on his first Ohio hunt and start a new family tradition.

One of my favorite opening day traditions is hunting with a muzzle loader during Georgia’s one-week season in October.

I started hunting with muzzle loaders many years ago and have witnessed some unbelievable technology changes that have occurred in the past 20 years.

My Thomson Center Pro Hunter muzzle loader has ballistics and accuracy equal to many of the high powered rifles I have hunted with over the years. I am amazed that these modern muzzle loaders can shoot accurately up to 200 yards with 150 grains of Hodgdon triple seven powder and a 250 grain Barnes bullet.

I have found the muzzle loading season provides a great transition between bow season and rifle season. Some of my most memorable hunts have been with the “ole smoke pole” and carrying on this family tradition from generation to generation.

Georgia’s gun season begins in October at the conclusion of muzzle loading season and has always been a tradition in our family. We enjoy eating venison and traditionally we harvest enough deer during this season to last through the winter and spring of the next year.

A large part of carrying on the hunting tradition in our family is processing the deer ourselves.

There are few meals that can compare to fresh venison back strap, baked potatoes, homemade biscuits and a pot of homemade vegetable soup.

Gun season lasts through Jan. 1 in North Georgia, so there are lots of opportunities to hunt in varying weather conditions , which adds to the enjoyment of the hunt. The Weather Channel is something that is always on in my home during gun season.

Hunting weather fronts correctly have produced some very successful hunts over the years.

Another family tradition is trout fishing in the fall and winter. Typically there are days that every hunter wants a break from sitting in a tree stand and what better way to take a break from hunting than trout fishing in one of Georgia’s year-round trout streams.

There are fewer fisherman out during the colder weather and the larger fish seem to bite better during this time of the year. Whether you fish with live bait or flies, there are some tremendous opportunities to catch some great fish.

The fishing should be exceptional this year because of the heavy rainfall that has kept the water temperatures cooler. Fish should be very healthy and plentiful, if you don’t mind the cold water and occasionally frozen tip on your favorite fly rod.

Fresh grilled trout and homemade corn bread during the colder weather provides a great meal after a hard cold day of wading a trout stream. I look forward every year to this tradition and sharing it with my family.

Our elk hunt in New Mexico this year is an opportunity to start a new family tradition of the fall. We have been to Montana a couple times hunting white tail deer, but this will be our first attempt at elk hunting.

The Cabala’s guide has told us there are some great bulls in the 300-inch range on the private ranch will be hunting. I have been amazed at the beauty and size of these majestic animals on hunting videos.

I can only imagine what it will be like to see one in person! I look forward to the trip and seeing some beautiful country. What a great addition to our family hunting tradition this will make.

I hope your families have traditions that include the outdoors and hunting because I don’t believe there is a better way to have quality family time than to be together in the fields, woods and streams in Northeast Georgia.

Get out and enjoy the traditions of fall with family and friends in the great outdoors. “Every day is Saturday.”

Russell Vandiver, recently retired as president of Lanier Technical College, has been an avid fisherman and hunter for 50 years. His column appears monthly.

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