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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Let the deer hunt begin!

Hunting season is pretty big in this household. The Farmer spends a few weeks preparing deer stands and practicing his aim on ducks and geese, which are in season from September. Occasionally he gets a coyote too, which are always in season—the little lamb-stealers — (insert profanity here).
I’m not crazy about duck and goose but the Farmer makes a mean demi-glace of fruit and spices when he serves wild game. He has his hunting party over for an opening-day feast, at the beginning of duck season and again at the beginning of the deer hunt. Sometimes I think this hunting thing is more about cigars, wine and food than the actual sport of hunting. Oh well. It keeps them happy.
I think it’s important for a couple to have separate interests, so they don’t drive each other crazy. Of course you need to share experiences together but it’s also good to have your own hobbies with your own circle of friends. Hunting is that for the Farmer. It was part of his upbringing and he made it clear when we married that it was his deal-breaker. It’s just part of his lifestyle, and he doesn’t have to go away to a hunt camp to do it.
We have 200 acres of land along a mile of Kemptville Creek. A lot of critters live here. We haven’t seen deer in years, maybe because of the coyotes. But this year we rented some of our land and corn was planted. Now the deer should return. The Farmer was out in his new castle in the corn the other night and saw a buck and three does. He was pretty excited about that.
Not everyone hunts, or even appreciates the value of hunting, so it’s important to be sensitive to others. We will occasionally find discarded beer cases or the carcasses of animals in garbage bags along our road during hunting season. It’s those hunters who give the sport a bad name for the others. You’re supposed to remain unseen and leave no trace behind.
The Farmer brought in a big doe a few years ago. I was told to stay out of the shed where he cleans them – he’s pretty considerate of my nerves. But one morning I was just heading off to work when I heard his ATV return.  I was shocked to see he had a huge deer strapped to the front of his four-wheeler.
I put my hand on her side. Her smooth hide was the exact gray shade of tree bark. I am always amazed that something so big and beautiful maintains such a secretive coexistence with us on our 200 acres. It’s like capturing a unicorn.
The Farmer watched me as I examined the deer. We both had tears in our eyes. It is always a humbling moment, I think, for a hunter. I’m no hunter but I understand the awe, and the mixed emotions. She was so beautiful.
I said a little thank-you to the doe, and stepped away from the ATV. Feeling brave, I offered to help my husband to lift the doe off the machine. When he untied the rope that restrained her, however, one of her long limbs slipped and an elegant high-heeled hoof tapped me. I jumped and screamed. And was consequently banished to the farmhouse. I guess I’ll leave the dirty work to the Farmer.
Last weekend the hunters honed their skills with partridge. Anastasia brought her hunting dog for the first time and he emerged from the brush with a bird in his mouth. It was a proud moment for Rupert, the huntin’ dog.  The hunters sighted their guns and prepared all their equipment for the deer hunt. The weather looks good: cool and damp. That will get the deer moving. There’s nothing sadder than a deer hunter on a warm November day. They like the cold.
My hunter will get up long before dawn (about the same time I get up for my morning show, actually) and pull on about eight layers of clothing before heading down to sit in a tree, his thermos of coffee in hand. He will watch the sun rise and possibly get a deer. And even if he doesn’t, he will be happy. Because for him, the ritual of being outdoors among the wildlife this time of year is enough.

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