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Hook and Bullet Club

“How is it we can put so much effort into hunting three weekends each year?” asked my former civics teacher last week.I smiled but I didn’t have an answer for him. We talked deer hunting and the upcoming season, which if you ask some hunting widows, starts in mid-September. For the past seven weekends we’ve been out at the shack, doing a little grouse hunting and a lot of plotting and planning for the 2005 fire-arms deer season that opens today in Minnesota.And yet on the final Sunday before the opener, Evan and I were in the woods past five o’clock, trying to finish putting a roof on a tree stand. By the time we got back to the shack, we were bushed, having spent the whole day cutting trails and fixing or putting up stands.Done? Well, I guess we would have to be. Our seven weekends had flown by and there’s two stands we never even had a chance to walk to and check on. How can that happen? You would have to attribute part of the problem to shack projects. Those new lights sure brighten up the table, no excuses for throwing that jack of spades on the opening hand at smear this year. And the many coats of sealant on the table should keep out splinters and make wiping up after dinner an easier chore.Sure, we got enough wood put up to get us through the season but the brush around the Taj Mahal stand is over my head now. You’ll need a heat sensor to find a deer walking through there this year. We did cut a new trail to Mike’s pine bough nest. This stand is in a good spot but has been a bit revealing due to its location. Mike basically enclosed it in balsam branches and the new trail Evan and I finished should help him sneak in undetected. And I really like where we put the pop-up blinds. We doubled our portable housing units from one to two and each sits in a great spot. One has great natural shooting lanes and the other is on the edge of a well-worn trail we haven’t hunted on before. We put up the second two-person ladder stand on Saturday with Jake and Bill’s help. By now we can throw those up without a hitch. Each one offers great views and a cozy sitting spot with a younger hunter. So will all of our work pay off? Will the deer be trotting by at a rate where we can be as selective as we like? Or will that lone small doe be the only action of the day, appearing at a stand with no boyfriend trailing behind? Like many, I believe the deer season is about more than just the deer. I’m more concerned about the flagging morale of the guys than I am about the meat pole sitting empty. The members at Camp Cholesterol are a diverse mix of hunters. We have the diehards who head out in the morning while it’s still dark and those who are just as happy to sleep in and hit the woods at the crack of 9 a.m. I’m fine with that. To impose your views or hunting ways on somebody else won’t get you far. Oh sure, there’s plenty of ribbing for the guy who spends Sunday afternoon snoring on the couch, but it’s all in good fun. And when the weather’s crummy and the deer have gone into hiding, that guy on the couch might have been the smarter one anyway. Big deer, little deer or no deer I enjoy the season no matter what. At this point in life I’m rooting for the kids to do well. With both Jake and Megan out in the field at times this season, I could forget my shells at the shack and still have a great day. I’ll feel bad for Evan, though. He worked harder than anyone this year getting stands ready and trails brushed. Leaving him at home is the downside of hunting. He loves life at the shack and at six years old is a regular old hand. Need a fire started or a bowl of pancake mix whipped up? Evan’s your best bet. The teenage and pre-teen crowd went through that phase as well but now school dances and cell phones seem to rank higher on the agenda. But there’s hope there as well. Jake told me this week that there’s a dance Friday night, the same time as our annual Camp Cholesterol Awards Banquet where gag gifts often appear and laughs are the order of the night. “But I’m not going,” he said before I could utter a word. So maybe there’s a chance deer camp is moving up on the list of life’s important things to do for the younger crowd.We have three hunters who come up from the Twin Cities, each with a work schedule that makes coming to deer camp more of a challenge each year. I encourage them to find a way to make it all happen, but the decision is one they must make on their own. I have my own time constraints and I don’t have to drive four hours to get to the shack. For some guys, getting a kitchen pass can be an added problem. Luckily I’ve been fortunate in that area, but I do need to find time to take down the trampoline - and soon!So when it comes down to the final days and we’re dealing with last minute issues such as what are we going to eat Saturday night and who’s buying what groceries, it just doesn’t phase me. Deer season is here for whoever can make it for however long and what food is in the cooler is what we’re going to eat. To worry now is really pointless. We’ve put a lot of effort into getting to this point, the start of deer season. Whatever happens now happens. Really all we can hope for is a safe hunt and for everyone to enjoy themselves while they’re at deer camp. Everything else is kind of like the weather in that you can complain about it but you can’t really do much about it. And I can tell you a little secret, the deer don’t care one way or another. For three weekends out of the year they deal with the orange invasion. The rest of the time they only have to play hide and seek with the local wolf population. And we think we have problems.

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