Forgive me, but it’s time for an annual indulgence of mine.
Like leftover pecan pie sitting on my sister’s countertop after the annual family Turkey Day gathering, I can’t imagine filling this space on the day after Thanksgiving with any other sort of drivel.
The drivel of recounting all of the outdoors wonders that there are to be thankful for.
Especially when living in a state as grand as Texas.
This year, I’m particularly thankful for:
* the South Texas brush country, home to some of the best deer hunting on the planet. Mysterious, thick and thorn choked, the mesquite and prickly pear flats south of San Antonio should be on the bucket list of every serious whitetail hunter. Trouble is, once you experience the magic of a December dawn interrupted by a chocolate horn buck chasing a winsome doe across a sendero, you’ll never be satisfied with a single visit to the land of the Muy Grande.
* the smell of a mesquite fueled deer camp fire, an aroma that is surpassed only by the taste of a steak — or a piece of venison backstrap — coming off such a flame built deep in the heart of Texas.
* noisily rattling a set of horns — deer antlers if we must be technical — together along the edge of a brush choked sendero in December. The buck — or bucks — that appear may be big or they may be little. But the adrenaline rush they bring as they charge in wide eyed and with nostrils flaring is second to none.
* the billions of stars that make up the Milky Way galaxy, all silently blazing their heavenly witness on a late fall night high above a Texas deer camp.
* the sound of whispering wings overhead. After nearly 30 years of sitting in duck blinds around the country, few sounds bring the jolt to my senses that ducks on the wing do.
* the sight of a flock of ducks cupped and committed, boots on, dropping out of the sky like rocks falling into a decoy spread. Be they greenheads, wigeon, gadwalls, or pintails, the sight of ducks dropping from the heavens produces a tightness in the throat, a firm grip on the shotgun and the whine of an eager Lab.
* the huge splash of a Labrador retriever unleashing the pent up DNA inside, bursting at their canine seams to retrieve a fallen fowl kicking a red leg upon the water.
* the comical sight of a roadrunner scurrying across the road on the way to deer camp.
* the lovesick gobble of a tom turkey intent on shattering the golden stillness of a spring dawn.
* the mysterious guttural sounds of a flock of sandhill cranes approaching a playa lake in the Texas Panhandle. When these B-52’s of the waterfowl world are on final approach to a decoy spread, you can already hear the “Ribeye from the Sky” breast filets sizzling on the grill.
* a choppy spring morning with a bit of cloud cover. The staccato whirr of a buzz bait fished along shoreline cover on Lake Fork. A sudden flash, splash, and watery bolt of lightning as eight pounds of bigmouth bass signals “Game On!”
* the bend in a one-weight fly rod — that’s right, an Orvis one-weight — as a pound-plus East Texas bluegill imagines that it is a triple-digit tarpon.
* a triple-digit tarpon at Port O’Connor putting a fearsome bend into an Orvis 12-weight, an arc that threatens the known scientific limits of high modulus graphite.
* acres of nervous water on Lake Texoma during a summertime striped bass blitz. A perfectly tossed hand-tied popper to the edge of the boiling liquid. A quick strip or two of the popper followed by a short pause. Another strip…and then the hammering hit of a ten-pound striper imagining its swimming off Montauk, Long Island during an autumn blitz.
* the laughing eruption of a cock pheasant roaring into the winter sun. While my scattergun struggles in vain to catch up to the diabolical laugh of whirring wings and crowing.
* the hot dry rattle of milo stalks crisping under a broiling September sun. A band of mourning dove whipping across a drying tank. The bark of a double-gun. The warm heft of game birds destined for the grill. A smile as big as Texas.
* floating the chilly waters of the Guadalupe River on a hot summer day, one of the bucket list experiences of the Lone Star State.
* watching a swarm of bats — if you call millions of the winged mammals a swarm — boiling out of a damp cave, spiraling their way into the gathering gloom of a humid Texas summer night.
* sitting by a fall campfire, drinking a cup of hot java, and listening to a band of coyotes howl at the moon. King George — not to mention Waylon and Willie — never sounded so good.
Such are some of the sights, sounds and smells of Texas.
We have so much to be thankful for as outdoorsmen living here in the Lone Star State.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a piece of pecan pie calling my name.