From My WindowIssue Date: November 17, 2021
Jane Thibodeau Martin
A Major Holiday
We are rapidly approaching the second major holiday of the fall/early winter season. Halloween is mostly packed away, except for a little leftover candy. Now we prepare for a period devoted to family and friends, traditions, hearty eating, and memory-making.
I refer, of course, to deer hunting.
I struggled to explain to people in Oklahoma exactly what deer season means in the northwoods. They deer hunt in Oklahoma, of course, but I never detected the fever pitch of excitement even a casual observer sees here.
My earliest memory of deer hunting was the activity in my childhood neighborhood. Nearly all the men hunted; I would hear shots beginning at dawn, while still buried under the covers in my upstairs bedroom. The party line phone would ring with updates about who had gotten deer, and we'd watch the road for cars driving by with deer tied across the hood. (This is something you just don't see much of anymore. It's not very good for meat quality, of course, being on a warm hood; but it seemed like a tour of the watering holes or neighboring homesteads to show off the deer was customary then.) Deer were usually hung up on a tree limb outdoors in the cold. Even if there were better trees in the back of the home, somehow the deer was always placed for maximum viewing from the road.
One year my dad suddenly made up his mind he was going to deer hunt. He did a little small game hunting when I was small, but this decision to deer hunt struck us all as odd. He was a man of little patience; he loved the outdoors and our land, but sitting still in the woods was never his style. In fact, sitting still anywhere was not his style. Everyone in the family figured his hunt would last an hour, at the most. We were all shocked as nearly three hours passed and he hadn't yet returned. When he finally did come in around 10 a.m., my mom questioned him as to where he had been and he sheepishly said "there weren't any deer so I slept in the back of the chicken coop." True story, and so classically in the tradition of my dad.
When I started working at Scott Paper, I was amused by the amount of time spent calculating how long a new hire would have to work to have enough seniority to get time off during deer hunting season. Complex calculations involving speculated retirements, move-ups and classifications of co-workers as hunters or not, Michigan season or Wisconsin, resulted in estimates of decades, with sick leaves as wild cards and jokes about fortuitous due dates for babies. (Deer hunting was the number one vacation request period, by far. Christmas and summer weeks took a back seat to hunting season.)
I see Chamber of Commerce figures on the economic impact deer hunting has on our state, but even given the likelihood the data is being stretched to the maximum to get a big dollar amount, it is still probably underestimated. The bar and grills, the grocery stores, the gas stations, the purveyors of clothing and hunting gear; the camps and land purchased; hardware stores, liquor and cheese stores and casinos all do business that probably rivals any other holiday, especially since this "holiday" lasts nine days. Non-hunters spend hunting related money as well, with many "deer widows" having traditions of get-away weekends; shopping extravaganzas and shenanigans eagerly anticipated while the hunters are away.
While hunting participation, as tracked by licensing agencies, is down in the United States, one demographic has experienced increases, and that is females. I believe Nancy Trimberger, a member of my family's "extended neighborhood," was the first woman I ever knew personally that hunted. And I seem to recall that one year she got a very respectable buck. A pioneer in my eyes.
My husband has always hunted, but I wasn't usually around for hunting season. While we were living in Marinette and for the 18 years we spent in Oklahoma, he always came "home" to central Wisconsin to hunt while I stayed home, and my knowledge of the hunt itself was limited to brief calls, texts or pictures, and maybe a carcass getting hauled home. But now we live in central Wisconsin, and I get to monitor the goings-on, since I can hear any shooting activity on our land from my location in the house. I can usually even distinguish who is shooting from the direction of the sound. Hunting has gone from a time I spent alone, preparing for Christmas, eating meals of things that Mike doesn't especially care for, and otherwise enjoying some down time, to hosting family hunters. I wouldn't trade this time for the world. This year my husband and son will be joined by our son in law, experiencing his first deer hunt. I will have quality time with my daughter and granddaughter, and in that way be part of what is always a successful season, big bucks or not.
The chili, lasagna, beef stew and cranberry meatballs are in the freezer. We will have a huge, traditional Thanksgiving dinner, to mark the third major holiday of fall. We will tease each other, celebrate or commiserate as the season progresses, and spend quality family time together. Deer hunting is now one of my favorite holidays, and I can't wait for opening day and the arrival of my family.
I wish all of you a safe holiday season, whether you are observing one or two major holidays next week.
Personal note: Welcome to the world, Archer David! I am over the moon at the birth of my second grandchild. His middle name honors his great-grandfather David Thibodeau, who left this life six years ago November 18. Happy birthday in heaven, dad, I know you are thrilled to have a great-grandson.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.
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