It was bitter, single digit cold on Saturday morning, the traditional gun deer hunt opener in Wisconsin, so we opted to unlock the kitchen windows and stack a rifle in a corner (just in case) and take a stand with another hot coffee on opening morning. Anyway, more on that next time.
Twenty years ago, I wrote what I thought was the meaning of all this blaze orange mania. Twenty years later, older and a little wiser, I thought it was worth remembering some of those random thoughts.
“Deer hunting is about time spent with your child in a hunter’s safety course as he or she prepares for their first hunt. It is about sharing hunting stories with your buddy in a duck blind or a fishing boat in late October while the blood begins to boil with building excitement in the weeks before the hunt. It is about scouting trips, and rubs, and scrapes, and tree stands and blinds. It is about renewing old friendships with farmers and landowners. It is about lists and shopping for groceries and a trip to the sporting goods store for licenses, ammo and new blaze orange hats or warm gloves and socks. It is about meditating over the grain in the walnut stock of your first rifle. It is about cool, sunny Sunday afternoons spent at the shooting range testing your marksmanship and building confidence in your firearm. It is about rereading the rulebook.
People are also reading…
It is about joshing with the service guys while getting the truck lubed, checked out, and topped off before the trip to deer camp. Deer hunting is about near sleepless nights spent dreaming about sneaking white antlered bucks coming into range. It is about the war council in the pole shed or bar or communal tent on Friday night where beers and lies are swapped and plans are made. It is about “Good luck”; “Have a safe hunt!”; “Kill a buck!” It is about the scent of burning wood and tobacco and cordite. It is about waking before the alarm and pulling on long johns and heavy clothes in the cold and then going downstairs toward the smell of hot coffee and frying bacon. It is about Vinnie’s biscuits and gravy and Butch’s three-alarm chili and Grandma’s French toast casserole.
It is about being outdoors in blaze orange for a whole week without shaving with your friends and family. It is about practical jokes played on buddies and brothers-in-law. Deer hunting is about stumbling through the dark to a deer stand. It is about planting yourself on a stump or bucket or chair somewhere deep in some woodlot and waiting for daylight. It is about trying to keep your feet and hands warm and wishing your stomach would quit growling or wishing there was a commode somewhere close. It is about tracking snow and warm wool pants. It is about driving deer to standers one step at a time in hopes of getting shooting yourself. It is about four-wheel drive and four-wheelers and tractors and closing gates behind you. It is about white tails flashed in your face in defiance. It is about killing a deer. It is about filled game poles and sheds filled with the day’s kill. It is about pictures and “didjagityerdeer?” and “way to go” and “nice shooting” and “nice buck.” It is about a lunch of sandwiches, cookies, Snickers bars and hot soup from a box on a tailgate washed down by hot coffee or chocolate. It’s about Uncle Greg’s Ole and Lena jokes and Uncle Bill’s leather like jerky. It is about blood trails and visits with the warden.
It is about registering your deer and the crowd it draws. It is about fresh fried venison tenderloin for breakfast. It is about the butchering bunch skinning, boning, cutting, and wrapping for the freezer and the sausage maker. It is about special hunter’s church services and hunter’s chili dinners. It is about coming in at the end of the day wind burned and too tired to eat. It is about pictures and journals and columns like this. Deer hunting is about all this and more with variations on the theme beyond count. (Add your memories and traditions here, I guess.)
To sum it up, it is memory making and tradition. Anyway, I hope you all have had a successful and safe hunt so far.”
Until next time, get out—happy Thanksgiving from the Koelkers. Enjoy.