As weather's chill sets in and flickering lights and wreaths begin to adorn local businesses and homes, many central West Virginia families are preparing for Thanksgiving week - complete with all the trappings and traditions that go along with this festive time of year.
Aside from next week's bountiful spreads of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing and the kickoff of the holiday shopping season, many families in our area share another tradition that dates back centuries.
On Monday, thousands of hunters will take to the hills for the opening of West Virginia's most popular hunting season - deer.
Buck season, which runs through Dec. 1, attracts outdoorsmen of all ages and is indeed a right of passage for many Mountain State youth. The two-week season also pumps an estimated $230 million into the state's economy and puts food on the table for countless West Virginia families.
With the opening of the firearm season, though, the state's many hunters shoulder a great burden of responsibility when it comes to safely traversing our public lands, not just for themselves, but for their fellow hunters and the common citizenry.
For decades, West Virginia has required its hunters to complete safety courses prior to obtaining a license. The free classes, which more than 360,000 residents have completed thus far, offer outdoorsmen survival and first aid tips, game identification pointers and, most importantly, gun and general hunting advice.
As deer season approaches, it is key that all hunters are mindful of proper protocol concerning gun and hunting safety.
To refresh those who are preparing for the big hunt, The Inter-Mountain offers the Ten Commandments of Gun Safety:
1. Treat every gun as if it is loaded.
2. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
3. Be sure of your target and what's beyond it.
4. Be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions.
5. Unload firearms when not in use.
6. Never point a firearm at anything you don't want to shoot.
7. Never climb a fence or tree or jump a ditch with a loaded firearm.
8. Never shoot a bullet at a flat, hard surface or water.
9. Store firearms and ammunition separately.
10. Avoid alcoholic beverages and other mind-altering drugs before and during shooting.
Along with these commandments, we urge hunters to observe the law and wear the appropriate amount of blaze-orange hunting gear.
Hunters always should be mindful that they do not just hold their own lives in their hands while in the woods but also the lives of those around them.
Have a safe and happy hunt, and don't forget to enter The Inter-Mountain's Big Buck contest. See Page B8 in today's edition for more details.