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Oneida hunters reflect on season and traditions

Posted at 9:50 AM, Nov 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-28 10:50:57-05

ONEIDA — Ernest Stevens IV is an avid hunter. He's been hunting since third grade, and he's now a senior in high school.

He just participated in gun deer season, but this year was a bit different for him. He hunted without his best friend, Nelson Vandehei, who passed away from cancer in March, and he shot his first buck ever and first deer since 2017.

"Hunting without him is different. I know he's with us," Stevens said. "I know he's in our presence, and I know he's happy and proud I got this buck."

Stevens said hunting was a meaningful part of their friendship, and so are the hunting traditions Oneida follows, like giving thanks to the harvest.

"We always give thanks," Stevens said. "I think it’s important to me and to everybody in the community because when you get a deer, you process it, you get the meats and it helps provide for yourself, family and the community.”

Oscar Schuyler Jr. and KenDall Schuyler shot two deer from a deer drive this season.

“It was my first buck," KenDall said. "It was fun.”

"Every year, every opening weekend...we're always out," Oscar added. "We do bow hunting and everything too."

Oscar said they also follow the tradition of saying thank you to the harvest.

“We put tobacco down. We’ll say a prayer and thank the animal for giving itself to us," Oscar said. "We usually do it right away in the field when we find it and walk up on it.”

After prayer, Oscar said they get the deer processed and butchered so they can share the food with their family and friends. Stevens does the same and said he's just grateful to be able to hunt even if he doesn't get anything.

“My favorite part about hunting is the overall experience. It’s always nice to get out, enjoy the weather, enjoy the nature...and doing that with friends and family," Stevens said. "I’m always blessed to go hunting whenever I can.”

Today is the first day of Muzzleloader season, which runs through December 7.