OK, I admit it, I always breathe a sigh of relief when firearm deer season is finished. I grew up loving animals and even knowing somewhere in the back of my head that the meat on our table came from a cow that had been in a stall in our barn previously didn't quite register as the same thing as shooting Bambi. Yup, my first favorite book that I real all by myself from the library, was "Bambi's Children". I checked that book out so many times, I could almost recite it line for line. Many is the night I would sit under the covers of my bed with a flashlight reading after bed time.
My favorites on the Wonderful World of Disney were always the animal shows, whether it was "Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar", "Rascal, the Raccoon" or "The Ugly Dachsund". And as you may have guessed, though it was only released back then every seven years, "Bambi" was my all time favorite movie.
My love of wild animals was always there, I guess. Though barn cats would not necessarily go under the wild category, the cats in my grandpa's dairy barn were pretty skittish, mating in the haymows and giving birth there also. Once in a while we would find a nest of kittens and would play with them until their wily mother would spirit them away to a new hiding place. The barn cats were seldom seen except when the milking was done and then they would always be sneaking milk out of the pails waiting to be carried to the big stainless steel cooler in the milk house. The favored barn cats would line up in a row where my dad or grandpa would be milking and if lucky would get a squirt of milk directed at them from a hand milked teat. Before we moved permanently to the farm, I would often ride along with my dad while he did the milking in the evenings and I was forever catching one of the less wild cats and trying to smuggle it home with me. I tried putting them under the car seat, in the glove compartment, and once in a paper bag I had found. The cats never really cooperated by being quiet and were always released back into their kingdom of the barn.
My dad never deer hunted and most of the neighbors I knew didn't either. They were too busy farming and trying to get ahead to deer hunt. But my mom's dad, Grandpa Laurenz deer hunted. Every year when I was young, he and Grandma went for a week to their summer cottage on Sand Lake, cranked up the oil heater and deer hunted. To my knowledge he never got a big buck, but it was never about the trophy for him, it was about the enjoyment of sitting in a deer blind, (back then under a tree usually), and just being able to think without any thing else going on. It was about the hunt. He usually got a deer, and then would come a venison dinner we were all invited to. It was quite often venison steaks grilled over his basement fireplace. As a kid I learned early on to dislike the taste of venison, as Grandpa's always left a tallow-y slick of grease in the roof of your mouth, that couldn't seem to be dislodged with the mortal tongue. (I have since been informed that the meat was not cut down properly to remove excess tissue). Both of my mom's brothers also hunted, but enduring the annual venison dinner was a once a year deal. Because I got to see my grandparents, cousins, and aunts and uncles, I was more than happy to suffer through some icky venison.
Well surprise on me, I married a deer hunter, and a duck hunter, and a pheasant hunter, rabbit and squirrel if nothing else was around. He came from a couple generations of avid hunters and his brothers all hunted, so there was no getting away from it with his family. It seemed like a fairly harmless hobby, as his mother had set down a strict rule: you kill it, you clean it, I will cook it. That worked fine with me so I was never asked to gut a fish, a deer or defeather a wildfoul. Kurt didn't kill a deer every year but enough so that we always had venison if we wanted it and there was usually packages of white butcher paper wrapped venison in our large freezer somewhere. Kurt would eat venison, but in those days we had all the beef and chicken we wanted which seemed preferable so quite often some of the venison was given away.
The first few years of his deer hunting were charming, for lack of a better word. I loved how excited he got and how he would plan for days what he would take to his deer blind for food and what he would wear. Because the opening of deer season came smack dab in the busy "turkey" season for Cicinelli's, getting opening day off was always a rare treat and quite often it was only a few hours in the morning. The evening of Opening Day our telephone lines were burning up. Calls went back and forth between, he and his dad, his brother, Kris, my brother, Kim and his best friends, Larry and Terry. If one of them got a nice buck, then a quick trip had to be made to go view this magnificent specimen. It seemed like fun then. I never enjoyed looking at dead deer, but they were dead and showed little resemblance to the ones I saw running across the fields. They never became a nuisance to me as they never bothered my garden.
As time went on and there was more hunting pressure around our farm, I grew to like Opening Day less and less. One year I saw a doe run across the tilled field in front of my house and shot and try to keep running wounded. It sickened me and there after, I tried to be gone somewhere on Opening Day. The boys grew up and of course, became hunters like their dad. With my brother's two nephews between our farm and my parent's place Opening Day was a busy one. Mom took to making a big pot of soup for the hunter's at noon. That way I didn't have to be around if I didn't want to. The guys enjoyed the chance to eat well and compare notes. I've come to realize its what deer camp is all about.
The boys are grown now and though Ryan was out yesterday, Korey has to deer hunt vicariously through his dad and brother and friends. The deer have become such a common sight in and around our place that "thinning them out for the good of the herds" has real merit to me now. And I have come to learn how to prepare venison in ways that I love. So, when Kurt shot a small 6 pt. that he and Ryan had been seeing for a few weeks now, I didn't feel really sad as I once would have. The buck had a pronounced limp that doomed it to live the winter anyway. That always tears at my deer hugging heart, as I hate to see any animal killed because of something like that, but I know it to be a reality. I didn't even mind the doe, Ryan shot because the doe herds need thinning and the venison will be put to good use...
I thought my Opening Day was done fairly early, but just before dark, I was summoned to grab the camera as Kurt had shot a big buck down in Mom's creek flats. Ryan was taking the tractor over to pick it up and I followed in the truck. It wasn't quite the monster Kurt thought it was, but it was a nice 8 point and one anyone would have shot. Kurt's buck tags are now used up, and I really don't need more venison for the freezer, so he can take Gauge out now, duck hunting. And maybe, just maybe I could talk him into Thanksgiving in Nashville.....Probably not, but its a nice thought....