Thursday marks that special day – circled on the calendar months ago – that has been eagerly awaited with excitement and anticipation.
It's Thanksgiving Day, of course. But in this part of Florida, Thursday also marks the opening day of the deer and turkey season for hunters using modern firearms.
This year, opening day will be a cold one with temperatures expected to drop to the low- to mid-20s by early morning. Exposure to cold can lead to hypothermia, a potentially deadly condition when the body gets cold and loses heat faster than it can produce it. Symptoms include poor judgment, unsteadiness and numbness in the hands and fingers – a dangerous combination when cradling a loaded gun.
"There's no reason to be cold, you can get warm now," Ronnie Groom, owner of C & G Sporting Goods in Panama City, said. "Back when I was young we didn't have all this stuff and you froze to death… but we're comfortable now."
On a frigid day, a hunter's wardrobe can be a lifesaver. Thermal underwear, full length coveralls, thick socks, insulated boots and gloves, and something to protect your head and neck from the cold are essential.
"The full face camouflage mask is really a favorite with hunters," Groom said. "It hides your face and it keeps you warm."
The day before opening day, Sam Stone made some last minute purchases – thermal underwear and jackets – for the family's Thanksgiving Day hunting trip to Vernon. "I'm looking forward to getting in the woods and hopefully staying warm because you know it's going to be cold," Stone said.
Whether you're on the water or in the woods, hand and foot warmers are another must have on a cold day. "All you've got to do is mix the chemicals together and you've got heat for about seven hours and that's really a good thing," Groom said.
Stone has a new, heated hunting stand and is optimistic about bagging a deer but, if it doesn't happen, he will still consider it a successful hunt. "I just think it's the sharing [and] the camaraderie with my children and my family," he said. "It brings everybody closer together."
The fall modern firearm season for deer and turkey will have a short, four-day run from November 28 – December 1 and reopen on December 14 for both species. Deer season ends February 23 and turkey season ends January 19.
Holmes County does not have a fall turkey season.
Click here for a link to Florida Hunting Regulations.