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Every year, several family members — and sometimes friends that are considered family — make the commute from Tennessee to partake in the first shotgun deer hunting season in Iowa. That season begins Saturday.

Zach James headshot


I’m from central Iowa where the whitetail pop up often, and that’s what attracts those from the Volunteer State. That, and the social aspect.

The hunting group consists of about 20 that likes to meet at 5 a.m. to situate themselves for the first run. This group runs around Poweshiek County from dawn to dusk chasing deer. And, they do this for about four days.

The special part isn’t the hunting part. Sure, chasing deer and/or pheasants around wooded areas is fun, but being around family is the best part. Being around those I seldom see and talking Tennessee sports, Iowa sports or laughing all night reliving stories is what makes me love deer hunting the most.

I go for the camaraderie. I go because I see family from Tennessee. That’s the only way I do get to see them.

There’s more laughter than anything else involved with the hunting trip. Late at night, we’d put a big space heater inside my grandparents’ garage, have a potluck dinner and share stories, both new and old.

Some of the stories are about hunting, and when it is a hunting story, it’s usually about who downed the biggest buck or who didn’t take one home at all. There’s a macho-type feeling about it, but it’s the same demeanor that any competitive family has.

It shouldn’t be about how many deer you harvest or who got the biggest buck. (Bragging rights are always nice, though.)

The social aspect of hunting with friends or family is what makes it great. It’s meeting up in the outdoors to enjoy what it has to offer while chewing the fat.

My first recollection of hunting wasn’t of deer, pheasants or even coyotes. It was actually raccoon hunting and mushroom hunting.

My dad and maternal grandfather went on a nightly basis in the fall, and as a little kid, I started tagging along because I wanted to wear a flashlight on my head like they did. Plus I absolutely — and still to this day — am fond to the sound of grain bins drying corn at night. It’s one of the best sounds in the world.

The walking as a kid who has bad legs due to cerebral palsy was tough, but it made me stronger. Run through a disced field that has been harvested at night with little light and the occasional cow, and that will make you tougher.

Also, raccoon hunting had a bigger payout for hides way back when compared to now. It’s really not as fun nowadays to go hunting when payback for hides is next to nothing.

Then, I discovered my dad’s passion for deer hunting, and I wanted to tag along for that ride, too. Once I found out my Tennessee family came up to visit, I was all in, mainly because of them. It was fun sitting in the truck eating snacks and watching the crew of hunters “push” a field in one direction.

Hunting is a big tradition for my family, especially for the ones who travel many miles. I can’t wait to do it again.


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