I try to keep my focus in a forward direction, but this season I have to look back and appreciate a milestone.

This fall will be 25 years since I harvested my first Cross Timbers buck. It all started in 1992 at the age of 12. I hunted my first year without firing a shot. The next year went better.

Deer numbers were far fewer in my early hunting days, but I had experienced a hunt that ended with the harvest of a great buck. My dad let me tag along on the second evening of rifle season in late '80s and that evening he ended up harvesting the best buck of his lifetime.

Since that night I wanted nothing but to deer hunt myself. I could have exploded the night before gun season opened in 1993. I laid all my clothes out the night before. I had my bullets organized.

Opening morning I can remember all of my senses wanting to take in every second of my deer hunting adventure. I carried a lever action .30-.30 as I walked from the truck in the pre-dawn light. The smell of gun oil was the cologne of manhood that I had finally attained. The chance to harvest a deer had become something that kept me from falling asleep at night.

Appropriately, success did not come without diligent hunting, but before the season was over I had my first buck.

There has been so much that has changed since that time and so much that has never wavered. The .30-.30 I so proudly carried that season never saw another deer hunt. I’ve deer hunted with two guns since that time. These days I hunt with a nearly 50-year old Remington Model 700 and have interest in making a change.

The blind I hunt on the opening day of gun season is the same. To see the day break from the same view of the Cross Timbers for that many years is special. I feel fortunate each new season to simply see the sun rises and sunsets from sacred places, and renew my hunting lifestyle.

My son recently turned 8, and harvested his first dove a few days later. His mom has been my hunting buddy for the last decade and understands my need to sit in the woods for hours each fall.

A quarter century since my first buck is definitely a milestone to acknowledge. There have been a lot of changes during that time but what stayed consistent was deer hunting, which developed into a lifestyle that fills the freezer and a tradition that fills my soul. I can’t wait to start a new season.

Don’t forget

For those looking to take a hunter education class this fall there is a one-day course scheduled at Meridian Technology Center on Oct. 13. It will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a one hour lunch break. Registration is not required, but participants are asked to show up 15 minutes early.

Online courses are also available by registering on the wildlife department’s webpage.

Jon Kocan is the Stillwater News Press outdoors writer and a longtime hunter. He can be reached at jkocan@stwnewspress.com.