In northern Minnesota, we call this happening the pre-deer season.
As these lines are written, a steady drumbeat of hunters and would-be hunters are strolling the aisles of sporting goods stores eyeballing racks full of blaze orange parkas, checking the prices on a box of rifle shells and choosing some kind of liquid deer lure that promises to produce a large buck deer in the sights.
Men and women can be seen at the firearms counters shouldering a rifle or shotgun, sighting down the barrel and pointing it toward the ceiling in front of an eager salesperson. One can almost feel the adrenaline pumping through their arteries.
The talk in the local cafes starts to revolve around deer stands and hunting property. It is not uncommon to hear an exaggerated story or two about the giant deer that somehow eluded the frying pan or to hear of some almost unbelievable tale that somehow seems to become believable this time of year.
One of my favorite hard-to-believe stories is told annually by one of my coffee-slurping friends. It seems he was somewhere in northern Minnesota when he came across some deer hunter at the local watering hole in town. As the evening progressed the stories became larger than life.
This hunter told my friend that he once harvested a large buck at a distance of about a half a mile across a small lake. It seems that the hunter spied the buck sneaking on the far side of this pond. The hunter pulled up his rifle and pulled the trigger. It was such a long shot that the hunter had put his rifle back in its case in the pickup when the deer fell over.
Hard to believe, but at midnight at the bar, the story “seemed” to be true.
My hunting party will soon journey out to the property I have hunted on since 1975. Some of the group have hunted it much longer than that. We know every crook and cranny on this piece of boulder-strewn land.
There are no secrets here as to where the deer roam. The same deer trails that existed a hundred years ago are still valid. The only change is who occupies the stand in the woods. We have Pete’s stand, Walt’s stand, Harlan’s stand, Dave’s stand and more.
Those deer hunters have left the planet and we now have other generations sitting where those folks sat.
We’ll find some of our perches in need of repair. Every year a bear or two decides to chew the railings off a stand. A tree will have crashed into a stand during a summer storm. Some stands will have just decided to “give up the ghost” and will have crashed to the forest floor. There will be work to do to restore them to their former glory.
But, no amount of work will deter these blaze orange-clad beings from putting things back in order. They are targeted. They will be seen and heard pounding nails in unsuspecting trees, crawling up and bouncing in a past stand to find out if it will hold them again this year and checking for deer scrapes on the trail in front of their perch.
There will surely be a pickup stuck in the mud somewhere or an ATV with a punctured tire. These things go along with pre-deer season.
The blaze orange herd is coming. You’ll see them on the highways and logging trails. You’ll hear them at the local watering hole telling stories about a long shot. It’s up to you whether you believe your ears or not.
Caution is urged. Especially around midnight.
See you next time. Okay?