As many of my loyal blog readers probably know, I spent part of my career working professionally as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for nearly 12 years with an Advanced Life Support (Paramedic) ambulance service. With several thousand emergency calls “under my belt,” so to speak, it is still common for me to drive down the road reliving what emergency event happened at this intersection or that one…or perhaps driving by a house where I would remember being on a medical crisis of some sort. Fact is, the location would take me back in time giving reason to ponder both people and circumstances.
This weekend the Minnesota Firearms Deer Hunting Opener kicked off and I did much of the same. As I walked around my 160 acre farm with rolling hills and a meandering stream — my little paradise — I took time to remember hunts gone by and the people who once shared the experience.
As I walked by one old dilapidated deer stand I thought about my former co-worker, Barry, who hailed from Washington State. He always wanted to deer hunt, so I offered up my property back 20 years ago so he could finally experience it. The stand is long since gone now, and so has the friendship. I guess I lost contact with him shortly after he hunted here.
Then there was my cousin Gary. For nearly as many years as I have hunted on this farm, he was here part of the action. I blogged about Gary back in December of 2004 describing just what he meant to my life. Three weeks later he passed away from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Even though he may not physically be with me anymore, I still felt his presence during the hunt by cherishing past memories.
Speaking of hunters passing on, I walked by several other deer stands that have long since been abandoned but were erected by another deceased hunting camerade. Greg only hunted on the farm for maybe three or four years, but during that time he sure made things interesting for all the other hunters. Unfortunately, Greg died from a head injury sustained in an ATV accident a couple years back.
One of the most fond memories I have of “The Hunt” came back in 2006 when I hosted Governor Tim Pawlenty here for the Governor’s Deer Hunting Opener festivities. What turned out to be about 4 months of planning and preparing was completed after about 4 hours of actual deer hunting. It was an exciting time for all of us in the hunting party…and one we will long cherish.
Indeed, over the years there have been many other hunters who have left their mark in the woods…mostly in some small way. Nevertheless, the mark is indelibly etched in my mind. Hunters such as Dale, Howard, Kevin, Steve, Kerry, John, Jim, etc. who no longer partake in the annual tradition, but I still have lingering memories of the many great times once shared.
And now I embark on a new generation of memory making. This year for the first time my stepson, Luke, joined me in the deer stand carrying an actual hunting firearm (in the past he’s only carried a BB gun). As I watched his eyes I could see he was soaking up the experience like a big sponge. How exciting. Even though he is a “newbie” to this sport I deeply cherish, I can see the excitement leaching into his soul much like it has done to mine many years ago.
When people ask me about this past weekend I must confess I did not shoot a deer. But somehow that doesn’t seem all that important to me anymore. Instead, deer hunting is about the people with whom I once shared the experience. I mourn those hunters who have passed on, as well as those who have simply chosen to move on.
And like those old roads I travel down as an EMT, walking the woods dredges up many old memories for me, too. Long gone are the days when I needed to see or shoot a deer to be having fun hunting. Indeed, I have reached the point in my life where I just thank God to still have the opportunity to participate and appreciate the many fond experiences I’ve already lived. To me, that’s what deer hunting is really all about.
2008 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.