Rodd's Ramblings: Returning to the magic of the deer hunt
November 13, 2020
The annual event that brings families and friends together kicked off this past weekend when the 2020 Minnesota firearms deer season opened. Deer camps across the state welcomed young and old alike as they melted into forested areas in search of that elusive whitetail deer.
I am fortunate to have hunted in three wonderful deer camps. As a kid, I hunted at our family shack near Hardwood Lake, then it was off to Beaver Creek Outfitters in Gowan, as well as Black Lake Outfitters in Cromwell. All of the experiences were unique and had their own traditions, but all had many similarities as well.
Sometimes hunters have a hard time trying to explain the excitement and anticipation of opening weekend. The Friday night prior to the opener is much like Christmas Eve.
Leading up to the opener, anticipation builds as hunters spend more and more time at their shacks, camps and trailers. Weekends prior to deer season they check out and repair stands, get rid of the mice who have taken up residence, clear and brush out shooting lanes, scout for new areas to put stands or blinds in, restock propane, mow down a summer’s worth of high grass, clear downed trees from trails and more.
Wednesday and Thursday nights prior to the opening Friday are spent making meals, packing and running over checklists and generally making sure everything is ready to put in the truck on Friday.
For me there is no better feeling than driving into the camp for the first time. Greetings are exchanged and then the work of unloading vehicles begins. Once that is done and everything is put in its proper place, the time to relax begins. Most shacks boast a couple of Coleman lanterns, their glow welcoming groups both small and large. Cards come out and stories of hunts from days gone by begin to flow. Laughs are shared and the tales that are told all grow with time. Despite the stories always being the same, there is always a sense of urgency to hear it all again. It is a matter of pride to be able to tell a story.
After a few hours of good food and conversation, it is time to hit the sack and dream of that big buck charging out of the woods the next morning. Heavy eyes give way to sleep and the visions of what the future might hold.
Opening morning the shack is filled with the aroma of coffee, bacon and eggs and the smell of the propane lanterns. Slowly but surely, the shack patrons crawl out of sleeping bags and begin to dress in their blaze orange. After breakfast the crew slowly makes its way outside and the atmosphere becomes much more serious as the realization that the hunt is about to begin hits.
For me, walking to the deer stand on a cool, crisp, November opener is what it is all about. It is dark. Other than the crunching of your boots over the crusty leaves, it is quiet. Hunters peel off from the group and slowly make their way to their favorite stands and locations. Crawling up into the stand for the first time brings a feeling of familiarity. Looking off to the east and seeing the glow of the sun just below the horizon has an almost intoxicating effect.
Breathing in the cool air with eyes closed ... the quiet shuffling of leaves below the stands sends your senses into overdrive. Was that a deer? Squirrel? There it is again. And people wonder why I hunt.