Case: Thanksgiving leftovers fill me with an attitude of gratitude

AP photo by Jeenah Moon / Spectators throw confetti during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on Thursday in New York. From having plenty of turkey in both the refrigerator and the woods to having millions of acres of public land for hunting, "Guns & Cornbread" columnist Larry Case is finding lots of reasons to be grateful this holiday weekend.
AP photo by Jeenah Moon / Spectators throw confetti during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on Thursday in New York. From having plenty of turkey in both the refrigerator and the woods to having millions of acres of public land for hunting, "Guns & Cornbread" columnist Larry Case is finding lots of reasons to be grateful this holiday weekend.

Well, we made it through Thanksgiving, folks, and I don't know about you, but I am even coming out of my turkey and mashed potatoes coma earlier than usual.

(How is it that we can eat like that once a year, swear we will not do it again next year, and then of course we do, all over again?)

So I need to say that I am thankful for that — having more than enough food for me and my family and others around me. As many of you know, there are a lot of places in this world where that is not the case and many people go to bed hungry much of the time.

I am thankful for having all that I can eat, and much more, every day of my life.

While we are talking about this thankfulness thing, in my usual not so humble opinion, people being thankful for things is a commodity that is in short supply these days. The truth is we are just plain spoiled.

So in thinking about all this, it occurs to me that we have a lot to be thankful for in the hunting and fishing and outdoors world.

You don't think so? Bear with me for minute.

Even though I am one of those old baby boomers, I heard those older than me go on about the "good ol' days" of hunting and fishing for much of my life. The old-timers claimed the game populations were much better back then, and that all of the game animals were, in short, much more plentiful. Looking at when this golden time would have been for the hunters that I am talking about, we would at least be going back to the 1960s, maybe the 50s and even before that.

(READ MORE: Why whitetail deer are the winning game, and probably always will be)

Truth is, if you start with the deer populations, at least in the Southeast, there is no comparison to then and now. "Back in the day," as my older buds would say, there were simply not any deer in many locales. Many of those my age can well remember the first deer or even the first deer track they saw. If someone actually bagged a deer in those days, he was an instant hero and often the buck would be paraded around on a car fender or truck bed for all to see. Many who are adults now can recall standing and gazing at the mythical deer as a wide-eyed child.

All of this changed in the 70s and going into the 80s, when deer numbers skyrocketed with populations growing to heights that were even higher than they are today. Almost overnight, deer seemed to be everywhere — and where they were once held in awe, now many considered them a pest in their gardens, where the deer came to eat, and a problem on the highway, where the deer had to be dodged.

How soon we forget, but I am thankful to live in a time when deer are plentiful.

It's the same with the king of game birds. After the turn of the century from the 1800s to the 1900s, eastern wild turkey populations plunged to almost extinct levels. Modern conservation practices — especially the advent of the cannon net to capture native wild turkeys and transplant them to other areas — really caused the turkey population to explode. Like deer, turkeys were more populous 20 years ago than they are now.

I'm thankful to have lived in a time when there were lots of turkeys.

(READ MORE: Spring or fall, let's be thankful we have the turkeys)

We live in a great country. For all of its faults, and despite all of the slings and arrows from its many detractors, the United States of America is still the greatest country in the world. We have so much freedom in so many areas, and we take it all for granted.

One area I am very thankful for is our freedom under the Second Amendment. We enjoy much freedom, as we should, to own guns for hunting and shooting sports and home defense. Although it seems there are those who are working every day to take away the rights we have to keep and bear arms, so far we have prevailed under the Second Amendment. I am thankful for that.

I am very thankful for the amount of public land that we enjoy in this country. Many of us would have nowhere to go for hunting and fishing and just getting lost in the wild were it not for the vast amount of public land we have here. There are thousands — no, millions — of acres of public land in many states for you to take advantage of. So if you have not done so, get a map and start scheming where you can go in your area. You may be amazed at the amount of U.S. Forest Service land and public hunting areas you have to choose from. I am thankful for that.

Well, as usual I have gone on too long, but maybe you get the idea. We have a lot to be thankful for as hunters and fishermen and sportsmen.

Think about that a little bit as you are working you way through all those Thanksgiving leftovers. (The turkey on dinner roll sandwiches are my favorite.)

"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at [email protected].

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