Thanksgiving means two things in my family -- grandma's pumpkin pie and deer season.
Last week, I took some time and went back to my roots in West Virginia to visit some family and friends to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.
But for the week prior to turkey day, it's open season on deer.
This year was amazing, despite the fact I was the only one in the group who didn't bag a deer.
We hunted from dusk till dawn all week long, hoping to bag that wall mounter.
The week's group consisted of my grandpa, my dad, and my sister, but we had other family and friends join in at various points throughout the week.
Every morning started the same--waking up to the smell of a fresh pot of coffee, bacon, eggs, and everything needed to get the morning started.
And every morning, we were in the woods before dawn, which is without a doubt my favorite part of being in a hunt.
There's something special about sitting in your favorite stand with the brisk morning air biting at your nose, waiting for the first rays of sunlight to peak over the hills.
I can't fully express in words what it means, but it's the closest to God I've ever been.
When hunting deer, the object is to be as quiet as possible and wait for the opportune shot on the buck you're waiting for.
The first morning, I settled into my stand and battled the brisk West Virginia air, waiting for my deer to pop his head out.
Several does came around, but I never did see that trophy buck.
Around 9 a.m. or so I heard a gunshot echo through the hills and hollows fairly close to me, signaling someone in our group had taken a shot.
I flicked on the radio and heard it was my sister. My first reaction was, "Pah, it's my sister. She probably couldn't hit water if she fell out of a boat." But I sat and thought in silence (you get lots of time to sit and ponder when hunting), and my thoughts quickly filled with joy.
I've grown up hunting and fishing with my dad and grandpa all my life. And they've both caught big fish and killed big deer, but their proudest moments come when one of the kids or grandkids pull in a big catch or get a big deer.
I stopped and thought about their influences on me in my life and my initial reaction of jealousy was quickly overcome by feelings of elation and pride.
My little sister--the deer slayer.
After the week was over and we had a chance to look at our haul, she easily had the biggest and best deer antler rack of anyone.
Despite the fact big brother was shown up, I was proud and beyond excited for her.
In that very moment I realized all those years when dad and grandpa had been there for me (often going without getting the big deer, or catching the big fish) that I was indeed just like them.
This realization didn't fully hit me until our last day in the woods.
My sister didn't actually hunt with us that day, just myself, grandpa and dad. The morning started just like the others, except colder and snowing.
And the cold and snow continued all day.
We never did see a deer worth taking a shot at, but that didn't matter to me, or dad, or grandpa.
But what did matter was the fact we had a day as a family in the woods, being guys.
Sure, I went through the week without killing a deer, but in retrospect, I gained much more than a set of antlers--cherished memories.
You see, 95 percent of hunting and fishing is the camaraderie and stories passed down.
It just so happens I gained another chapter in a long book of storied traditions and tales of wildlife I get to hand down.
And being a very proud big brother, son, and grandson, that's not a half bad take on a week of things to be thankful for.
-- Chris Siers is sports editor of the Times-Gazette. Email him at email@example.com.