Before the Europeans came and ruined everything for them, various groups of Native Americans used this area of the state as a common hunting ground. The Osage from mid-Northern Missouri was a large and powerful tribe that had great influence here, but tribes from Arkansas, Oklahoma, and East Texas also used the area. Deer, turkey, and other wild game were very plentiful. The Indians set up temporary camps, hunted the animals, and preserved the meat before returning home. Just as important were the rocks here -- just ask any one who tries to farm this land or plant a garden—which they fashioned into tools and weapons.
The tradition of setting up a deer camp for hunting continues. The opening weekend of the all-comers deer hunt in Missouri was probably, at least in this area, the warmest weekend on record. For the first time in his life, our son was invited to go hunting. Some of my uncles hunted, and the LOML’s father hunted in Colorado, but the men in my immediate family and the LOML do not hunt, and so our son never had the father-child hunting experience that is so common in this area. The hunting tradition here is not male-dominated. Many women and their daughters also hunt, but he lucked out again. I have no problem killing a farm animal to eat it, but I am not a hunter of wild game, so I never took him into the woods either.
Earlier in the Fall he was invited to go hunting with a friend. He went to the Hunter Safety Course, he bought his hunting license and a deer tag, and he arranged to buy a gun. Several times in early Fall, they went to the site where they would be hunting and cleaned up the camp. Finally, last weekend he went on his first deer hunt with the friend and Tony, our neighbor who also brought his young teenaged son. He left very early on Saturday morning and came home Sunday morning.
I was very excited for him to be able to go. I did not expect that he would actually shoot a deer and kill it, I was just happy for him to have the experience of bonding with these other men at the deer camp.
What actually happened was that his friend went for a short walk in the woods, got our boy situated where he was to wait for deer to walk by, then returned to the camp and began drinking. He mostly drank the entire time. Tony drank a little too, but not like the other man. I can’t think of anything more lethal than semi-drunk men staggering around the wood with high-powered rifles.
Our son does not drink, so he did not have a very good time with his beer-guzzling hunting friend. Our son had never been hunting before, so he did a few things that deer hunters are not supposed to do. Instead of being educated then about proper hunting techniques, he got a telephone call the next day and was criticized after the fact for all these mistakes.