The Last Windrow: Lessons will be learned - and remembered - in the deer stand
Pine River columnist John Wetrosky shares what he's learned from many years in his deer stand
There are lessons you learn from a tractor's seat. There are lessons you learn from behind a car steering wheel. There are lessons you learn from some kid in second grade that you don't tell your folks about. There are lessons you learn from sitting in a deer stand.
I'll be sitting in one this Saturday during Minnesota's firearms deer hunting opener.
As in past years, I and my hunting party will make our foray into the deep woods early Saturday morning. My daughter and I will bump along our rutted roadway to what we affectionately call the "North Gate." It is the entry point into the 200 acres of trees and bogs that we call our hunting camp.
When we open the pickup's doors, we might be greeted by a cool wind. Or we might hear a howling wind and be glad we had donned our hunting outerwear and prepared to meet the weather devil.
But I hear this year we might also be greeted by the quietness of a yet undisturbed landscape with only the hoot of an owl echoing across the aspens.
One never knows what awaits.
There were years when trees swayed, limbs cracked, tundra swans streamed south overhead. No doubt the giant white birds had better plans to stay warm than we did as they rode the Arctic wind south!
During those brutal opening days I wished I was in that flock.
We'll saunter down the forest trail and my daughter will break off and head for the famous "Nail Keg" stand. This hand-created piece of human architecture sits on the southeast shoreline of a large swamp. We call it the "Popple Swamp" due to the fact that it is fringed by aspen or, as we call them, popple trees.
The deer stand has been used now by generations of hunters and seems almost ghostly resting above the forest floor in the predawn darkness.
I'll continue up the trail to my usual deer-takers haunt that we call "Pete's Stand." Pete has long since departed this life, but the legend of this stand lives long after him. Pete harvested more whitetails in that stand than almost any other stand on our property.
I've replaced the original stand with a newfangled tripod stand that sits overlooking a much used deer trail.
Climbing into that stand is not as easy as it once was for me. With an artificial hip, my mobility is not what it used to be. But, I hope to persevere and soon be perched 10 feet above the leaf carpet to survey the familiar surroundings that I've become accustomed to after all the years of hunting at this place.
The warmth will gradually leave my body and I'll pull down the earlappers of my hat. I've learned over the years that one does anything possible to keep whatever heat he can generate on a cold morning's deer hunt.
Pull up your collar, drink the hot coffee in the thermos before it freezes, shuffle your feet enough to keep the blood flowing to your extremities, keep your red handkerchief in an available pocket because your nose will spring a leak at almost any time.
I've learned that in a deer stand you should remain quiet and immobile. Doing this when your rear end is frozen to the seat and your eyes are watering so bad you can only see out of one of them at a time is a trick. Time ticks by like eternity and all you can think of is the warm campfire waiting at noon.
I've learned those things over the years in that stand. Maybe I'll pull the trigger this year and maybe I won't. Perhaps we'll dine on venison this year and then again, maybe we won't.
It's all in play this Saturday during the Minnesota firearms deer hunting opener. Lessons will be learned and remembered.
See you next time and be safe in deer country. Okay?