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I have a friend whose idea of a nice business suit is a camouflage shirt, pants, jacket, and a matching hat. On the best business days, his outfit will include enough orange to be safe. His ideal office has a view, preferably from a deer or turkey stand or looking out from a duck blind. He writes a weekly column: Water Scott's Outdoors. As the title implies, he writes about the great outdoors. Whether it's a recent adventure he was on or just sitting and observing nature; his column is always fun to read. This week he wrote about the challenges that come with running a local newspaper during a pandemic.
Walter closed the offices of his newspaper. He and his staff all work from home now. He dedicated a downstairs room in his house for his office. The office window looks out over his countryside property, including the lake, the rolling hillsides, and into the woods. He wrote, after some adjustments, the transition has been pretty smooth. I wondered how a guy like Walter would get any work done with that view!
He wrote in his column that the biggest problem working from home had been the scenery. When something outside is more interesting, like two bucks sparring on the dam, it distracts him, taking his attention away from his work. It is a blessing to have such a problem. Walter wrote of more significant issues in the home office setting.
The other day, through his window, he spotted the largest buck he had seen in years. It was well within bow range, and he had his deer tags in his pocket. The problem was his bow. It was in the garage.
While planning how to sneak to the garage without disturbing the buck, Walter's mind got ahead of him. He had visions of his new deer mount proudly hung on the office wall. He envisioned a freezer full of venison and probably a steak on the table, a baked potato with melting butter and sour cream, a side of buttered carrots, a dinner roll, and a slice of warm apple pie – ala mode. But Walter had more problems than bow separation anxiety.
Billie, the designated office guard dog, was on duty. Sensing an imminent invasion, the poodle sounded off. The buck heard the dog. Fearing what sounded like a pack of wolves hunting, he hightailed it over the crest of the hill and out of sight. I can only imagine the look of disgust Walter gave his comrade, Billie.
Walter took steps to correct the problem. For the next few days, he kept Billie upstairs should the buck return, and his bow next to his desk with all the other office equipment necessary to publish a newspaper. True outdoorsmen can be fanatical like that. The sportsmen of northern Minnesota are every bit as enthusiastic.
Every opening day is an event treated like a national holiday. Men and women will take time off work for the fishing season's opening day, bear season, hockey, and such - deer season included. Although I don't hunt anymore, I listened with interest, hearing people talking a week or so in advance about their opening day plans.
They told stories of a huge buck they've seen on the trail cam, a specific group of does moving together, bedding spots, and wolves. Occasionally someone will ask, "Where did you see that?" The answer is always specific: "Out there in the woods." Hunter's discuss their equipment, the terrain, different weather scenarios, all in anticipation of Saturday, opening day.
It was just a few minutes after eight in the morning when I heard the first gunshots. Someone filled their tag early. All-day long, I saw pickups and SUVs along the roadside, many pulling trailers with four wheelers and side-by-sides to retrieve their game from the woods.
Hunters in camouflage with proper orange markings gathered at the side of the road. Some were getting ready to head into the woods. Unsuccessful hunters discussed what area they would try next, while a successful hunter boasted details on how they took down the buck tied to the rack on their ATV. Others were taking a break, enjoying a cup of coffee. All the activity tapers off at sunset when the hunters go home - well, most of them. I was just getting started. Hunting deer after dark is illegal, but that's when I went.
I was driving into town when a large doe came sprinting out of the woods across the highway. "Oh darn," I said out loud, or something like that. I hit the brakes hard. I could hear everything in the bed of my truck slamming forward. It looked like I was going to miss her, but BAM! I got her in the hindquarter. "Son of a gun," I yelled, or something like that. Thrown by the impact, the doe spun in the air before going down on the shoulder of the road. I quickly thought, "At least I can fill the freezer."
I envisioned my deep-freeze filled with packages, neatly wrapped in the white butcher paper, and a steak on the table, a baked potato with melting butter and sour cream, a side of buttered carrots, a dinner roll, and a slice of warm apple pie – ala mode. I imagined the kids asking, what's for dinner, Dad? "Roadkill." I would tell them.
I quickly turned the truck around just in time to see her get up, shake off the injury, and bound off through the ditch. "Are you kidding me?" I asked her as she disappeared into the woods. I cursed the deer, "Hunting after dark is illegal, but so is fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run accident!" I laughed to myself. Usually, when an outdoorsman tells about the one that got away, they're talking about fishing.
Next came that sinking feeling in my gut, wondering the extent of the damage done. Maybe I got lucky, and it would be minimal since I barely got the doe. The headlight was still on but pointing downward, toward the road. I pulled under the lights at the gas station to assess the damages.
"Darn it!" I said, or something like that. "A wrinkled fender, a broken headlight, and all for naught – no meat for my freezer!" There's no sense in crying over spilled milk. It is what it is. I tried to find some humor in the situation by asking myself, "What's the penalty for taking one doe after dark? About twenty-five hundred bucks," I chuckled, wishing I had someone with whom to share my quick wit.
Just like Walter, I had been thinking ahead of myself. Now when the kids ask, what's for dinner, I'll sarcastically tell them, " Just eat your mac-n-cheese, and I'll nuke some hotdogs."
I looked out the window across the driveway at my damaged Dodge pickup. I cringed a little, and then I looked at my old dump truck parked next to it. Not everything was terrible. Behind it, I stacked a load of split firewood about twenty feet long and six feet high. There were logs scatted on the ground. "Hmm. I thought I had put it all up." The top two feet of my stack was toppled over. "Wow." I said, "we must have had some pretty strong winds while we were gone this past weekend."
It was then I noticed a bird under the old Ford's dump box. A grouse, if you're an Iowan; a partridge, here in Minnesota. The hen looked like an inflated balloon with her feathers thoroughly roughed. Then I saw a second bird behind the truck by the spilled firewood, and then a third! They were pecking at seeds or something in the grass.
Suddenly, it occurred to me; I parked the truck and stacked the wood right where those birds frequently gather. The wind didn't blow that pile over – it was those grouse. They knocked my woodpile down! And Walter thought he had problems? Between the deer that boogered-up my truck and grouse that vandalized my woodpile - Geesh!
It is a blessing to live amongst all this wildlife, but maybe it'd be best to let Walter write about it in his Outdoors column. On a brighter note: Hey Walter. I got a deer on opening day. How'd you do?
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