A hunting we will go…

I had never been hunting in my life until last weekend.

I have nothing against hunting. I know plenty of folks who do it, and I have often enjoyed what they have brought back. It’s just not my thing.

I spend lots of time in the woods. Not once had I ever ventured out with a gun. But there I was, my dad and me, ready to find our quarry.

My dad is also not a hunter. I am not sure if he has ever been hunting, but I doubt very much if at all. 

As we walked into the swamp where we knew our target resided, shotgun in hand, I turned to my dad and said, “All these people who told us this was the way to get it, do you think they’ve ever actually tried it? I mean, what if it doesn’t work?”

He paused for a moment. “I don’t know…”

You see, our target was mistletoe. We have lots at my folks’ cabin out in the woods, and each year I had told my dad I wanted to bring home mistletoe for Christmas decorations. We had ventured into the swamp many times, easily finding the bright green orbs perched high in the leafless trees of winter. But they were high up on virtually unclimbable trees. We had talked about various ways to get it down. We considered a rope with a weight on the end that we would throw up and snag it. But the height and the terrain limited that. We had considered telling my son that we bet him he couldn’t climb the tree. But his mother and grandmother would most definitely limit that.

Numerous people over the years had said the way to get mistletoe out of a tree was simple: a shotgun. And so there we were, ready to put that advice to work.

But then I started wondering if this was just something people said, or if anyone had actually done it before. Thus we stood at the edge of the swamp pondering out next move.

Only one way to find out.

The swamp we hiked through was thick with underbrush. We tromped here and there, winding around trees and briars, sinking deep into the sphagnum and mud. After about 10 minutes, we spied some high up in a tree. 

We fought through the underbrush and stood at the base of the tree. “I guess we’ll find out,” I said.

Because standing right underneath the mistletoe and shooting straight up would be monumentally stupid, we found a spot of solid land a few yards away where we could aim at an angle. 

My dad loaded a single shell into the shotgun. I asked, “What are you going to aim for?” “The base,” he said with the confidence of a man who had hunted mistletoe a thousand times.

He shouldered the shotgun, aimed to the sky, and fired.

The boom resonated through the swamp, and almost instantly, mistletoe came raining down. We approached the base of the tree and found probably a dozen branches that had come to rest on the ground. Success.


We found two more batches that added to our haul, and can now safely say that, yes, a shotgun is a perfect way to hunt mistletoe.

After filling a bag with the greenery, we had ample for Christmas decorations (to be used in a 2019-compliant manner only).

It was a great time in the woods, and I look forward to this holiday hunt tradition. After all, this is the type of target I’m wired to hunt.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Mt. Pleasant. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike or at


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