Our family had a semi-successful 2017 deer hunt, especially when you consider that our hunting party numbers shrunk this year, which resulted in the deer, if they were capable of laughter, giggling at us more times than usual as they tended to show up at the spots we were not situated.
Star Tribune outdoors writer Dennis Anderson a couple weeks ago wrote about the pleasures of being not just vaguely "in" nature, but actually being “alert” in nature. After spending an unsuccessful opening Saturday of the Minnesota firearms deer season - if you define success, that is, by whether or not you shoot and kill deer - with a group of hunters in a forest in northeast Minnesota blanketed by an early snowfall, Anderson reflected on some of the things he'd observed, some that required a bit of keen observation, because those who seek to hunt and kill deer must be alert to everything around them in order to do so.
Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to get out in the natural world once in a while? Or maybe far more than once in a while? And as long as we're going to be out in nature, why not be alert so we don't miss anything? Well, certainly, these are wild creatures we're talking about, so they're going to outsmart us on occasion and we'll miss some things, but you get the picture.
When I'm driving across the rural landscape, it's not my phone that distracts me, it's what I'm constantly on the lookout for as I race along the highway. What kind of hawk is that at the top of the tree near the ditch? Look at the size of that flock of snow buntings. And around these parts, of course, especially if it's early or late, "Deer...right there...watch out!" It's often the one we didn’t see first that wreaks the most havoc.
Our family had a semi-successful 2017 deer hunt, especially when you consider that our hunting party numbers shrunk this year, which resulted in the deer, if they were capable of laughter, giggling at us more times than usual as they tended to show up at the spots we were not situated. We saw more deer than we've seen in years, many of them out of range - see the previous sentence - and had we had one or two more hunters on our squad, chances are we would have filled all of our tags over the first weekend.
But we got a couple, one impressive in size, and the bullet that took him down, fired by our youngest son – old enough for the first time to hunt without an adult sitting next to him – went through the neck and didn't damage one molecule of meat. Atta boy!
One of the hunt’s most prized moments was probably on the drive home that Friday night, after we'd decided that two decent deer was enough for us, so it was time to share stories in the truck.
Hunting animals of any kind is certainly not everyone's cup of tea, but when deer hunters - I've hunted only deer - share stories of this kill and that kill, even if some of them are of the rather mundane variety - a deer came out, a trigger was pulled, and an animal went down - there's one aspect of the stories that extends far and wide among hunters telling and retelling their tales: The heart pounding in the chest, which is somehow an almost audible "THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!" in your head as adrenaline is released in copious amounts into your system and your coursing blood rapidly disperses it throughout your body. Then there’s the shaking. Mini-convulsions, even. No, you're not shivering because you're cold, your body is shaking because your biology has decided that when your eyes come upon a deer that you're likely going to fire at, your brain essentially shouts "HOLY (EXPLETIVE)!" and in a nanosecond instructs your body to react in actual physical fashion.
So on the drive home, our teenage son, who's shot merely a handful of deer in his brief hunting career, actually said, "It never gets old." Then he proceeded to discuss the pounding heart, the shaking, and his right foot literally tapping uncontrollably on the foot rest of his stand during and after his latest encounter with the wonderful white-tail deer.
He’s right. It never gets old. It might even get better with the passing of time.