It’s an hour before sunrise as I make my way through the darkness to my deer stand. Cresting a hill, I startle a furry animal who swiftly charges right at me, starling me in return, bumping into my boots before disappearing into the field. A fox? A muskrat? A woodchuck? I’ll never know, but it’s a clear wake-up call, a reminder that I’ve entered an environment in which all living creatures have a place on the food chain – including me.
I settle into my stand about 30 minutes before the official opening of the 2010 Minnesota firearms deer hunting season, an event that my husband and I have enjoyed together for over 20 years. This year, my husband had to work so I decided to go alone, having the entire 172-acre farm to myself.
As I look out over the landscape in search of deer, I think about how much easier technology has made hunting than it was centuries ago. Back then, people had to make their own weapons, clothing, footwear, and shelter, using only those resources that were available to them on the land itself. They also had to prepare and preserve their catch so it wouldn’t spoil, to extend its shelf life until the next catch was in-hand. All I had to do was order my gear from Cabela’s and wait until it showed up in the mail. Then I hiked down a roughly mowed trail, through the native prairie field, and into a ready-made stand on the edge of the forest. Progress!
Fortunately, as hunting technology has evolved, the licensing and regulations for hunting have kept up. Each year, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issues updated rules and regulations for hunting and trapping season. For deer hunting, the state is segmented into various regions, each having different rules as to when, how many, and by what means the deer can be harvested. This year in our area, each licensed hunter can harvest one deer (buck or doe), and we have the option to purchase an additional antlerless (doe or fawn) permit to harvest a second deer. While the regulations do get complicated (as they change from year-to-year), I’m glad the DNR closely manages this. With all of the hunting technology available today, we need proper management to ensure we’ve got plenty of deer for years to come.
Up in my stand, I watch the sunrise over the marsh. I hear owls hooting, wild turkeys gobbling, and mallards swimming in the pond. It's such a beautiful scene that I decide to share it with my friends on Twitter. I pull out my Palm Treo and start Tweeting about what I'm seeing and hearing from my deer stand. I enjoy a few pleasant Twitter conversations with friends and followers who wish me good luck. With no deer in sight and the sun peaking above the horizon, I even take a few photos. Suddenly, I see a six-point buck right under my stand. I quickly deposit my phone into my pocket, hoist my .243-caliber rifle, peer through the scope to align the cross hairs on my target, and pull the trigger. Just one shot and he's down.
I want to share the good news, so I Tweet “I JUST GOT A BUCK!!!” Immediately, I receive Tweets of congratulations, inquiries about the size, and a few “buck” jokes. One Tweet stands out. It's another Minnesota hunter Tweeting from his deer stand, wondering if he’ll be able to catch a piece of my good luck.
I have to laugh. Here I am, allegedly enjoying my first “solo” deer hunting opener. In truth, while I may have the farm to myself, I'm not at all alone. My smart phone and Twitter connect me to friends all over the world who are right there with me in my deer stand.
With the victory celebration over, I turn my attention to the dead deer. When the shot hit him, the deer landed in the pond -- he was not within reach from shore. Since I'm all alone, I have to find a way to get him out of the pond and back to the house.
Once again, I turn to technology. I hike back to the house, put on my hip boots, grab a rope, hop onto the four-wheeler ATV, and head back to the pond. I wade into the icy water, loop the rope around the buck’s head, tie the rope to the four-wheeler, and pull him to shore. I’ll spare you the gory details, but with shoulder-length plastic gloves and a sharp hunting knife, I (ahem) field-dress my prey before hauling him back to the house. By 9:30 a.m., I'm relaxing with a cup of Peace Coffee and telling my friends on Facebook what happened.
I’m thankful for the technology that enabled me to be a successful hunter this year, from my gun to my smart phone to my truck -- and even to my freezer. These tools help me feel empowered and connected in ways our predecessors couldn’t have imagined. I walk away from this year’s hunting experience with a profound appreciation for what our ancestors went through and the challenges they faced. Oh yes, and with a gorgeous six-point buck too.
Debbie Morrison is a frequent contributor to Simple, Good and Tasty. She and her husband Jim own and operate Sapsucker Farms, where their certified organic crops include maple syrup, honey, apples, plums and vegetables. Debbie's last post for Simple, Good and Tasty was Ring Necked-Pheasant Season and My Good Friend Barb.