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The Zak Zone

December 1, 2011

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the always-dreaded lulls between my favorite seasons: Football, hockey and baseball seasons. Last week, I wrote about how thankful I am for the memories I have had the opportunity to make with those who mean the most to me.

This week, I'd like to say a few words about one of the seasons I forgot to mention which has brought me many cherished, joy-filled memories with loved ones: Hunting season.

As you have likely noticed by the plethora of photos in The Spirit's sports section over the past few days, buck season is upon us, and despite less-than-ideal weather conditions (it turns out sunny and warm is the worst weather for bagging a buck), some have been fortunate enough to land their deer.

Congratulations to the many, young and old, who brought down their first buck this season, and good luck to those who continue to search for the elusive "big one."

I, myself, am not a hunter ... not anymore, that is.

My list of talents does not include sitting still for long periods of time or being quiet, and thus, my likelihood of dropping a monster buck is greatly decreased the moment I walk, or clumsily trip over a root, into the woods.

Also, when I shot my first, and only, deer — a doe — my grandfather explained that he'd gut it for me, but the next one, I'd have to do myself.

I said if that was the case, this would be my last one, and much to his displeasure, I wasn't lying.

But I used to hunt, and the memories I have stored away go back far beyond my first day in the woods.

As a boy, growing up in a family that has seen many successful hunts, as both my grandfathers, one of my grandmothers and my father were all hunters at one point, I have long known the pride of snagging a trophy.

But as a young boy, more than anything, I remember the fellowship that came with hunting.

In my teenage years, I spent lots of weekends before opening day at a friend's camp up north, but as a youngster, my deer camp was my parents' basement.

The first day of buck season, anywhere between five and 15 hunters, mostly family members, flooded that basement to fill up on coffee and breakfast to get them through the morning.

My brother and I woke far before the crack of dawn and paraded down the stairs to greet the hunters and listen to their tales of prior hunts.

Then, we'd wish them luck as sunrise approached and march back up the steps to rest on the couch and wait for any success stories.

Lunch was much of the same: Reports from the morning's activity, more stories from hunting seasons past and lots of homestyle cooking.

The first season after my 12th birthday, I realized just how good a bowl of piping hot stew could taste after six hours in the freezing-cold woods.

Hunting season is just as much about gathering with those of like interest and enjoying each other's company as it is about landing the hang-it-on-the-wall buck.

My great-uncle Lloyd always had a funny story to tell us. My grandpas both had stories of many successful hunts, sometimes embellished just a bit, to tell us. My uncles and dad seemed to have just as much fun sitting around listening to them tell the stories as my brother, my cousin and I did.

Nowadays, that basement that I refer to as our own little hunting camp sees just one hunter, my dad, as he prepares to go out each morning, but each year on the first day of buck, I can still hear the laughter and the stories echo not only in that basement, but in my head, as well.

The pictures and stories of others who have nabbed their own deer this year have helped remind me of the memories of hunting seasons long forgotten by some.

So, I'll leave you this week with the same blessing I left those hunters with before retreating to my couch all those years back: Be safe out there, enjoy the fellow ship of those you have the chance to hunt with, and make sure you bring back a big one so we can make lots of jerkey out of it.

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