Outdoor Corner: The Giving of Thanks

Lyle Johnson

If there’s one thing we always need to be a little more of is to be thankful. In 1620, the original American settlers lived their first winter on the Mayflower and never got out of the ship. Half of them perished, while the other half just barely made it through and then spent their first spring in the new land.

Divine providence had an American Indian who could speak English. Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe, had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition.

Two fine gobblers that would make great table fare for a Thanksgiving feast.

He taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. So, in 1621 the governor, William Bradford, called for a feast to thank God and their new friends for their fortune.

The historic chronicler Edward Winslow wrote in his journal that Governor Bradford sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the event, and that the Wampanoag guests arrived bearing five deer. The birds killed for the event might well have been turkeys, but their menu included lobster, seals and swans as well.

Many more Thanksgivings were celebrated after the first one in 1621, but it wasn’t until 1863 when President Lincoln made it official. It’s been celebrated in November since that day.

We still have very much to be thankful for, although sometimes it gets taken for granted. Thankfulness to God for His blessings is still very important, and family is as well. Wild game was on the first menu and is on most Thanksgiving menus in South Louisiana today.

The main attraction at nearly 100% of Thanksgiving dinners is the turkey. Although most are harvested in a supermarket, the wild turkey has made a tremendous comeback in population. Hunting the birds is very popular, so naturally eating them on this day happens as well. I will be frying one for my family.

Oyster dressing is a very popular side dish that finds its way onto many tables for the celebratory feast. A good seafood gumbo is a plus to the traditional feast – one that includes the oysters along with shrimp and crabs one might catch along our gulf coast or estuaries. If a meat gumbo is what you like, ducks, squirrels or rabbits could well find their way to the pot with a little homemade andouille stuffed with wild pig.

Buddy Hernandez’s 16-year-old son, Luke Hernandez, and 9-year-old grandson, Braden Hernandez, had a decent morning in mid-October hunting on His family's property near Donaldsonville.

The popularity of deer hunting is at an all-time high, so deer roast is on the menu in many homes around Ascension Parish. Along with the stuffed turkey, a wild goose might find its way into the oven as well.

History has proven that Thanksgiving weekend is one of the most popular times for outdoor activities. The kids are out of school for the holidays, and the days before the holiday and after allows for lots of time for whatever you like to do in the outdoors.

Most of the hunting seasons are open, so the weekend is usually planned around the quest for taking game of some sort. Late Thursday afternoon or early Friday morning will find caravans of hunters heading for the camp to hunt deer or headed to the coastal areas in search of ducks and geese. Small game is great table fare and is my personal favorite to eat, so a squirrel or rabbit hunt could be in the mix as well.

Fall fishing is at its peak in both fresh and salt water. The sac-a-alit are heading for their wintertime holes and will be feeding up for their annual spawn. Tree tops are a favorite spot in the rivers and grass beds in the canals or marsh are two good choices to add to the list. I’ve gotten some reports that the bite is really picking up in the marsh.

The water has cooled, so the bass are beginning their quest to fatten up for their springtime spawning campaign. Just about all the known haunts might produce good catches. They will hang on the points and sloughs to eat passing baitfish. Along the bank will offer good opportunities to power fish and snatch a few on jigs and plastic baits.

The speckled trout and redfish are on fire in the marshes, patrolling their usual haunts in search of a meal. They can readily be fooled to take plastic baits either slow rolled or under a cork. Lake Ponchartrain’s fall run of trout and flounder is well underway, and large catches are there for the taking when the wind allows.

Fishing has been red hot in Venice for a couple of months now, so, if you have a hankering, one could catch redfish, speckled trout and bass on the same trip. Both local marinas will be full to capacity with sportsmen and women with ducks and fish on their minds.

Wow, the Sportsman’s Paradise. We have much to be thankful for. This Thanksgiving, the Johnson family will be at my house. The aroma of fried turkeys will fill the air, and hugs and kisses will abound. Lots of laughter will fill the air as great memories are shared and new ones created.

I’m sure somebody will be on the pier fishing. I’ll be thinking back to the days when I was a kid at Paw Paw Marchand’s house as it was full of folks doing the same thing. Thank you, God, for allowing me to be born into a great family in South Louisiana. Until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!

Outdoor Calendar

  • East Ascension Sportsman’s League Meeting: 7 p.m., third Monday each month in the meeting room upstairs at Cabela’s. Supper will be served. No dues will be accepted until 2022. warrenh3@eatel.net 
  • Hunter Education Program: Hunter education classes have resumed. Classroom; online with a field shooting day and online for students that are 16 years or older. Website: https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/page/hunter-and-trapper-education
  • Squirrel and Rabbit Season: Through Feb. 28. Daily bag limit eight; possession 24.
  • Deer/Archery: Through Jan. 31, State Deer Areas 1, 2 and 4; through Feb. 15, State Deer Areas 5, 6 and 9; through Jan. 15, State Deer areas 3, 7, 8 and 10.
  • Duck Hunting: East Zone: Through Dec. 5, Dec. 18 - Jan. 30, Feb. 5 (youth and veterans only). West Zone: Through Dec. 5, Dec. 18 - Jan. 2, Jan. 10-30.
  • South Louisiana Highpower Club Match: Nov. 28, 7:30 a.m., squadding; 8 a.m. on the range, Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Range, St. Landry Road, Gonzales. NRA match rifle or service rifle, 200-yard/50-rounds match course. Fee $12 members, $15 nonmembers, $5 juniors. $15 annual club & Civilian Marksmanship Program membership (allows purchases from CMP). Email Rick Mol: southlahighpower@hotmail.com

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net