By James Hudson
There’s a sense in the air no matter what style of hunting you do when the season starts coming around. Maybe it’s the dew on the grass before a spring gobbler opening morning. Maybe it’s the thrill of climbing into the tree stand, waiting for your target buck to cross your path. Whatever your niche that opening day always holds a special place in our hearts as hunters. The dog-hunting world is no different in this aspect. We have our opening-day spine chillers that just get the nerves going.
This is our story of opening day.
Growing up, being the first one to the hunting cabin always seemed like an impossible feat. No matter how early you woke up, the older generation (my grandpa’s generation for me) was already there with a fire in the stove going and bacon on the griddle. It almost made you wonder if they even slept the night before. Between the unique smell of the cabin breakfast and seasoned hunters giving you hell for being “late” the moment you walked through the door, it was almost a ritual for opening day.
A wood stove, a southern breakfast, and cigarette smoke fills the air, while tales are told of each hunter’s past woes and glories. Trail cam pictures, bow or muzzleloader trophies, and talk of deer movements kept the blood pumping with excitement for what the season held in store for us. You’d give a quick tip to the cooks after enjoying breakfast and prayed that everything settled correctly on your stomachs for the day! There’s just nothing like opening day.
Most of us had already been to the dog lots and loaded up beforehand. But others that hadn’t been to the lots quickly made their way to them to be ready for first cast at daybreak. The CB radio is the name of the game for a dog hunter. There’s no sweeter sound than twisting the volume knob and the hum of the static sets in. It almost sings to you like a George Jones song coming through the radio, setting the tone for the day. For me, the mixture of burnt motor oil and hot Virginia red clay coating the exhaust that’s been caked on from former seasons is invigorating. It’s like it fills the cabin of my hunting truck like my wife’s scented candles do a room. As the sun begins creeping over the horizon, the plan that was made at breakfast goes into play. Man, I love opening day.
It’s finally here. There’s a heavy weight on your shoulders as you’ve somehow talked your way into being the first cast of the season. Over 10 months of waiting, training, upkeep, and pent up excitement is about to be unleashed with the click of the latch on the dog box. Your truck is backed into your casting spot and everyone is on stand. It’s here…it’s finally time. You grab the mic on the CB and make the call…”Putting them on the ground boys! It’s opening day cast!”
One last cold deep breath before the tailgate drops. You flip the latch and out of the box like a heard of bulls comes your pack! Paws hit the ground and break up the frost. You hustle in with your dogs letting out your hiking commands to keep them going in the right direction. They begin to put in the work, nose on the ground searching for that scent. You’re patiently waiting the best you can for them to get a deer going. Then it hits. The trail bark of an old faithful hound you know better than any dog in the group. He barks out a big bawl, pulling the rest of your pack back to him to assist in the jump. As they start hitting more and more, the tone begins to change of the hounds working deeper into the holler. Then it happens…they jump! Full cry! The chase in finally on! The opening day of hunting season has officially begun.