The Deer Hunter……

Earlier today, I read an article by Larry Dabblemont in which he offered a commentary about the grand sport of deer hunting.  Larry is a crusty journalist who calls things like he sees them.  He is also an entertaining writer who has a way of presenting both sides of an issue for his reader’s consideration.  His latest article describes his penchant for Hostess Snowballs, those heart attack precipitating little globs of sugar and other assorted chemicals that are wonderful when you are needing a quick snack.  It reminded me of a number of experiences I enjoyed while deer hunting.

My friend, retired Highway Patrolman Keith Johnson, refers to the day before the opening of deer season as “Deer Blaster’s Eve”.  Keith is not a hunter, nor is he judgemental, he simply saw the humor in camo clad hunters meeting each other at frenetic speeds on the highway, heading to their deer camps near or at the place the hunters they met were leaving. The irony is evident. Both of us have had the occasion to work accidents where a frantic hunter found himself involved in an accident where he upset his truck and/or trailer, damaging his  ATV and spilling enough provisions on the shoulder to sustain the hunter until sometime after New Years Day.  The upset, more likely than not, was caused by a weight and balance problem associated with cases of beer and bags of groceries loaded in a way to cause the trailer to oscillate.

I was an avid deer hunter for many years, and would likely still participate in this annual pilgrimage if it were not for hands that become useless appendages when the temperature drops much below freezing.  I know, gloves are helpful, but you have to take them off to unwrap a Twinkie, Honey Bun or package of Grandma’s Oatmeal Raisin cookies.  Morning starvation is a horrible way to go and hunters avoid this dangerous malady at all costs. I have also come to appreciate the inherent danger of rummaging around in my pack full of vittles while perched on a tree stand.  It is probably my tri-focal glasses, but 15′ looks like 100′ when you are sitting on a mesh platform the size of a paper plate, swaying in the inevitable wrong way breeze.  The nifty safety harnesses that exist today are designed to prolong death, trading the suddenness of a quickly broken neck from the fall to a slow asphyxiation from hanging in the harness for a day or two waiting for another hunter to saunter by eating chips and a locker plant sandwich.  I speak from experience here.  Before the advent of the portable climbing stand, I spent 30 minutes on a beautiful November afternoon climbing into a pin oak tree and stradling a limb or two to begin my watch for an errant deer.  You guessed it……I dozed off and fell through the pin oak’s lower canopy and awakened as I came to rest in a position that could not be staged, about 8′ above the ground.  Already exhausted from the climb, it took precious time and energy to extricate myself from this mess without losing an eye in the process.  I don’t think I could survive this fall today, not a problem really, as I could not make that climb!img_0100

I hope to hunt again someday, but prefer the flush of a bobwhite ahead of a good pup to the rewards of the deer hunt.  My concerns are heightened by the various maladies that our deer herd is afflicted with, some of which can prove fatal to a hunter eating his quarry.  I will not kill anything I won’t eat, and there is something wrong with having your “harvest” (kill to a real hunter) tested for a variety of colorfully labeled maladies before you grill those beautiful venison tenderloins.   It is not as simple as it once was.

I have killed and eaten a good number of deer, some of which sported nice racks.  As I write, a nice buck killed on the David Cook farm, near Falcon, Missouri is gazing down on my work from the wall behind me.  He was a dandy and  I was filled with pride at  his demise but he was tough and hardly edible………another lesson learned!  To those hunters out there…..enjoy your snacks, climbs and drags while you can.  One day you might be wearing trifocals, hearing aids and suffer from the inability to unwrap a Ding-Dong because of arthritis……

If my hands cooperate………I can still slip a knife into a crappie and quickly render it ready for cornmeal and peanut oil……

 

 

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