That magical opening day has finally arrived – Christmas morning for deer hunters. Outside is cold and dark, save for the glow of red taillights illuminating exhaust rising from the tailpipe. Orange-clad nimrods take their appointed seats, adults in the front, kids in the back and the truck moves off toward a carefully chosen destination. However, the journey is interrupted by an important stop.

Deer hunting is loaded with lore and traditions, though some fade over time. The old Winchester Model 88 is replaced with a Remington Woodsmaster 742. Red or green wool plaid is replaced, or covered, with blaze orange. L.L. Bean hunting boots are supplanted by neoprene Lacrosse Burlys or Mucks.

Even the hunter’s breakfast seems to be on the wane.

It used to be a given that on the first Saturday of deer season – and often several ensuing Saturdays in almost every community – there would be a hunter’s breakfast. Some were special events, hosted by local groups in community centers, churches, Elks clubs or the V.F.W. Others were early openings at the local greasy spoon. They still occur, but like reliable employees are getting harder to find, which is a shame.

Hunter’s breakfasts are an important part of the deer hunting tradition for several reasons. For starters there’s camaraderie. The act of hunting is largely a solo endeavor, book-ended by mornings and evenings shared at the breakfast and dinner table or around an open fire or a wood stove. This provides an opportunity to renew bonds, swap stories and tell lies. All kinds of advice – some good, some bad – is shared on tactics and techniques.

Tales are told of successes and failures while wide-eyed youngsters look on, listen and learn. Each time they’re told the bucks get bigger and warier and the hunter’s prowess grows. Elders look on knowingly, concealing a smirk as one of the comrades embellishes a classic adventure to epic proportions. Like the bucks they chase, hunters establish a hierarchy where the old silverback’s status grows while last year’s youth day hero earns a spot on the bottom rung.

In addition to providing an opportunity for building and strengthening camaraderie among hunters and providing them with a hearty breakfast before hitting the field, many of these events also act as fundraisers for the community organizations that host them. They run the gamut from local scout troops and church groups to school sports teams and charities. Many even have raffles and prizes.

It takes a great deal of time and effort to put them on, two things folks seem to have less of nowadays. It also takes hunters to show up and support them. Some of the rewards are mentioned above but others are less tangible. For some hunters, particularly the oldsters, time spent together before and after the hunt is just as important as the hunt itself, perhaps even more important. Find a hunter’s breakfast this year and if you can’t, maybe consider organizing one next year.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and Registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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