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Deer season memories

November 18, 2011 at 10:22 PM

The State Journal-Register

The first time I had a permit for the shotgun deer season, I lay awake almost all Thursday night imagining bucks and does cavorting just out of gun range.

After I finally entered the Land of Nod, no alarm clock on the planet was going to wake me up. When I snapped to, the sun was off the horizon. My first high school class was only 90 minutes away.

In my tortured mind, I knew every deer in the territory was standing under the tree I had intended to be in before dawn. I put on yesterday’s school clothes, grabbed my shotgun and bolted out the back door, formulating Plan B as I went past the barn and started sneaking down the dirt road that led to La Harpe Crick.

At that point in my deer-hunting career, I don’t think I’d ever seen a deer. I didn’t see one that morning, either. But I had a deer tag with my name on it and, no matter how late, or how lacking in experience, I was out there — a member of the fraternity.

I saw only two deer my first season. One of those was in the back of Uncle Stanley’s truck. Still, the hook was set, and I’ve been chasing deer up and down La Harpe Crick ever since.

This morning, Lloyd, Curt and I will meet at the barn again (the same one I slipped past my first deer season). A few decades ago, it was imperative for us to have a deer hanging on opening day. That is no longer a priority.

We are among the lucky few. We’ve hunted deer in the same place since we were teenagers. The life experiences we’ve shared in the wild country, and the friendship those experiences has sustained, are far more valuable than antlers. And they appreciate in value each year.

Certainly, we’d all take a crack at the buck of a lifetime, but deer hunting, for us, has little to do with pulling a trigger and everything to do with three days with nothing to do but be out there — together.

Every fall, I read the experts’ take on the upcoming deer season with increasingly larger grains of salt. Based on the does being receptive, and the phase of the moon, Field and Stream magazine lists tomorrow, Nov. 19, as one of the seven best days all year to hunt the rut.

It really doesn’t matter. If every expert said it was the worst possible day, we’d still go hunting.

I’m not sure anybody can predict deer activity down to the day, especially in magazines that were published a month ago. During the shotgun seasons, as hunting pressure increases, the big bucks that show up in trail cam photos all year simply vanish. They get to be big by being smart, careful and moving only at night.

It wouldn’t surprise me if some of them can read.

Contact George Little at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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