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Weekends with Pop

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My grandfather aka “Pop” and I would hunt and fish on the weekends from the time I was 14 till I joined the Marines. In the Fall, a bow hunting surf fishing weekend was usually the norm.

He would pick me up at zero dark thirty on Saturday morning, I would load up my Bear recurve and arrows and we would head for the Dunkin Donuts and the 15 minute light. Once there, we would sit and open our morning snack and feast on what we (he) had purchased. When the light changed, we continued our trek to our destination, Turkey Bone Ridge.

Turkey Bone Ridge was a name given to an area in the NJ Pine Barrens that we had been hunting for years. Once there, we’d walk up to the dirt road, he would go his way and I would go mine. We (he) would usually see deer, but never took a shot. I always wondered why, but never really asked. He had killed deer in his younger days, but did not seem to have the want now. We would always meet up around noon for lunch which consisted of a few sandwiches, sardines, crackers and coffee. We would then hit the woods for an evening hunt.

We had been hunting these woods for years, but that did not mean that we did not ever get turned around getting out. We had our special whistle call. Whoever made it to the road first would wait till dark if it was not already. We gave each other about 20 minutes, if there was a no show, we would then do our call. It would just keep us on track coming out of the pines.

If his whistle got me out of the pines once, it got me out a dozen times. One evening, I made it to the road first. Following protocol, I waited and whistled with no such luck. After about 30 minutes of whistles and a very dark night, I walked back to the truck, brought it up to the meeting point and blew the horn every minute. Another 15 minutes produced my grandfather, a bit tired and weary. He had come out of his stand, and started walking in the opposite direction, something that I had done many times over the years. It was time for a dinner out.

Saturday night in the Pines on the way to Seaside was a nice drive. There was a restaurant that we would dine in. Homemade snapper soup was my meal of choice. Then it was on the road to the beach.

Once we hit the strip at Seaside, it was usually late dark thirty. Next stop, the bait store then park the truck in the parking area, climb in the back and go to sleep. Morning usually came very early, sometimes too early. In the old days, we could just drive onto the beach and sleep on the beach. But times had changed, this was the 70’s and it was just not allowed anymore.

I would always get woken up with a hot cup of coffee, how he got out of the camper without me waking up is beyond me. The hot cup of coffee was a good start, then at zero early am, it was off to the restaurant for a quick breakfast. It may have been quick, but it was a lot of food. It had to be as we always planned to be in the surf up to our waists throwing plugs in the Atlantic when the sun started to rise in hopes enticing a striped bass. We would plug until lunch, then we would bait and throw out the big surf poles and it was cooking time. If we had caught a striper or blue, then that was what we dined on for lunch. If we had been skunked, then my grandfather always had packed away in the cooler, a few steaks that would be put on the grill.

Sometimes these hunting and fishing weekends would get extended when my Monday or Friday school days, I had off. When the November cold rolled in, we would hold off on the surf fishing and spend the weekend bowhunting deer. We gun hunted now and then for deer, but both preferred the bowhunting season as the lack of hunters in the woods was a blessing. After the late NJ bow season, we would switch gears and it would be a surf fishing weekend, except every now and then. Sometimes we would find ourselves surf fishing in December, for what, I don’t know. The lines would freeze and then the ice would fall off when we reeled in our lines. It was cold, real cold, but fun.

My Pop passed away a few years ago. My last visit, Caren took the kids to the public play ground not 50 yards away. We sat on the back deck, watching the kids play in an area that we had hunted for rabbits in my younger years. We spoke of passed hunts and the never ending want or “need” of getting back in the Pines or down to Seaside to throw a few plugs for Stripers.

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