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Jerome Christenson: And soon there will be gunfire

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There’s no way we’re gonna avoid it.

As the dust settles on months and months of overheated politicking, by the weekend thousands of passionate men and women will be taking up arms, leaving their homes bent on shedding blood.

Yup, Minnesota deer season opens Saturday.

Whatyathink I was talkin’ about?

Across the state, it’s the annual ritual of thinning the herd, restocking the freezer, or concocting credible excuses for “the one that got away.” It’s time to shake the mothballs out of the blaze orange woolens, check the hunting boots for mouse nests and maybe lay in a fresh set or two of high tech insulated undies. For thousands of folks across Minnesota and across the Midwest, deer season is doubtless the best argument for the Second Amendment we’ve got goin’… for hunters and people who just like to eat deer meat.

I’d have to put myself firmly in the latter category. Now Dad was a dedicated deer hunter — or perhaps more accurately stated, was dedicated to going deer hunting. Every November he and a crew of boyhood buddies rendezvoused at a ramshackle lodge situated in the midst of a stretch of second-growth scrub woods on the southern fringe of what we’d call Up Nort with the declared and undeclared twin intents of shooting deer and drinking brandy — at least one of which was invariably accomplished. This tradition got its start in an era when whitetails were still relatively scarce, so when Dad rolled into the farmyard with a yearling doe tied over the right front fender of his ’52 Studebaker, it was hailed as quite an accomplishment — specially for a fellow who annually unlimbered his deer rifle three days before the opener just to make sure the doggone thing still fired.

Thus, I developed a taste for venison — especially the extra-lean, gamey variety nurtured on a diet of the coarse slim pickin’s up there in the piney woods. Mom was no fan and my sister watched too much Bambi to care to partake, which left all the more for Dad, brother Kevin and me.

In due time, I too shouldered a weapon and headed for the woods, only to discover my skills and inclinations were more Daniel Webster than Daniel Boone. It didn’t take many trips to conclude I was a greater danger to the deer population while on the road driving to the woods than out stalking them amid the trees. But if I couldn’t shoot ‘em, I could cook ‘em – though my admonition to come back with a nice fat doe ‘cuz we can’t eat horns, was generally scoffecd at and left unheeded. What wasn’t unheeded was the call to supper — rare, braised tenderloin, crisp fried potato and a side of the campsite beans that would have been the main course if the hunters had come back empty handed.

I’m still fortunate to be friendly with a good number of folks who head for the hills every November and routinely come back with more deer meat than they care to eat — and, if I happen to be in the right place at the right time, offer to share a bit of the surplus with me.

Invariably, I most gratefully accept. Steaks, roasts, chops, shanks, or burger that bring a taste of the wild to kiss my kitchen cast iron, the flavor of life before civilization caught up with us quite so completely.

So good luck to everybody pulling on your orange parkas and heading out long before the sun breaks. Stay awake, shoot straight and bring home the venison — every one tagged and tallied, one less I need to dodge on a late night drive.

And if you find yourself with more than you need to eat …


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