November is here in Minnesota and the chilling bite I feel each time I step outside kindly reminds me. Not that I needed any reminders of course, not on the eve of THE unofficial Minnesota state holiday. Yes, the time of year when school closings are still common in rural areas and business meetings are politely scheduled around the first week of the season. A time when Minnesotans unite in celebration of tradition and of the hunt. A time when almost half a million of us take to the woods on the very same day. For myself, it is a special time of year indeed, one in which I unite with my fellow brothers and sisters in pursuit of, not only the whitetail deer, but also a deeper connection with nature made possible through the hunt which drives our passion.
Tonight, thousands of us will make the drives to our treasured deer camps where we’ll catch up with old friends, re-tell old stories and together hope for new tales to tell. The tradition of deer camp is rich and engrained in our history. I don’t envy those that do not understand it, I only wish that they could. For many years, I was somewhat of a deer hunting vagabond as my family does not hunt. That didn’t stop them from doing everything they could to give me the opportunity however, and for that I am ever grateful. In the beginning I wandered from camp to camp, an apprentice to numerous mentors, experiencing the traditions of deer hunting and deer camp from many different perspectives. Along the way I learned a thing or two about the whitetail deer, about people, and how to be a sportsman. I made friends and memories as well, ones that will forever be a part of my deer hunting tradition. Part of what makes this time of year so special is that the tradition likely means something a little different to each individual, yet we all share a common thread amongst our fellow hunters. Today I am fortunate, for I have become part of a true Minnesota deer camp. Through a long-standing friendship and new friendships, I’ve been welcomed and brought into the fold as part of a deer hunting family.
The outlook for this year’s season is grim, in the opinions of some; mine however, is unchanged. I’ve never measured the success of my hunt by the harvest of a deer, instead my hunt is considered a success the moment I take to the stand on opening morning. The sheer excitement in knowing that anything could happen at any moment is so invigorating I need nothing more as a deer hunter. I’ve always thought opening day in the deer woods is akin to an artist staring at a blank canvas. All of this is NOT to say that putting a deer on the ground is not my goal, because it absolutely is. It is only to say that deer hunting means much more to me than the simple fact of filling my freezer. We deer hunters are the same as anyone else that shares a passion within a larger group. We live and we die together, we laugh and we cry together, we hunt together. Now we’ll march into the woods and we’ll hunt together once more, one half-hour before sunrise on the morning of November 7th.
To all of our fellow deer hunters, the Northwoods’R crew wishes you a safe and successful 2014 deer season. Best of luck bagging that buck!