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Goals For This Wonderful Season

Oct 18th, 2013 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

Nick Kemper PhotoIt’s that wonderful time of year again — deer season. As you are reading this, cheapest I am likely in the woods somewhere, patient wondering where all the deer are. My hockey-playing daughter broke her leg at practice two weeks ago, so my goal this year is to set her on stand (sit, really) in the right place at the right time, so that she can drop the big one while in a cast. My other goals for this season:

• Get up early at least twice and cook a big breakfast for everyone before the morning hunt. We usually have a pastry and some coffee and head out, then come back and have a late breakfast/brunch. Last year we somehow ended up with eight-dozen eggs for an average of eight of us per day and we ended up not making much of a dent in that. Plus, I’m always hungry about halfway through that morning hunt. This way, I’ll be sleepy halfway during the morning hunt, and stopping for a nap is easier than rummaging up some grub in the middle of the forest.

• Visit some old shacks/mines that we haven’t checked out. This is my daughter’s directive, and she’s already announced that no one should mind if we trespass on private property in the pursuit of this goal. The area in Eastern Oregon that we hunt was the location of a gold and silver strike in the late 1800s, and there are a lot of old shacks around. A few mines are still visible. Last month (before her broken leg) we made our second annual hike on the abandoned Salmonberry River Railroad in the Oregon Coast Range, which took us through four old railroad tunnels and through an assortment of landslides and re-routed railroad tracks. One tunnel was partially caved in at both ends and it had a curve, so you could just barely see light at each end from the other. We braved it anyway and about halfway through, in the darkest part, a wire was mysteriously hanging from the ceiling right in the middle of the tracks. My oldest son wasn’t amused when I suggested that it might have one of those Blair Witch stick figures attached to it.

• Camp in the meadow. The last three years we camped in a popular shaded campsite which, unfortunately, is so popular that it has a herd of rodents. One got into the undercarriage of my brother’s pickup and wouldn’t get out until I popped the hood and quickly nailed him with a one-handed shot from a bb gun, one of my greatest acts of hunting prowess to this point. I don’t think it killed it, but we never saw or heard it again. Unfortunately, it had already chewed some wires that required the transmission being dropped to replace them. Last year my wife drove up for the first weekend, and a mouse got in her car and stayed there till she left. We even put some rat poison in the trunk and overnight the mouse carried each pellet of poison all the way to the driver’s side floorboard, right by the accelerator pedal. We’re talking about 75 pieces. On the day she went home, someone opened the trunk and the mouse jumped out and scattered. The meadow is just down the road, a little less popular, more secluded, and as far as we know, rodent-free.

Of course, the overriding theme of deer hunting is relaxation. If all goes well, we’ll have some pleasant weather while we’re there and it will have rained during September so we’ll be able to have a nice campfire every night, where we’ll gather to eat jerky and drink beer and maybe smoke a cigar. We’ll tell stories of course, and there’ll be some newcomer to pick on.

I started going on these trips when I was five, and I missed a few years when my kids were really little. Now my youngest son is 10 and this will be his fourth trip. Here’s a kid who will default to a screen if you let him – laptop, television, iPod, whatever – and you have to argue every night to get him to shut it off and go to bed. But on that day we head out for a week of no running water and limited electricity, he’ll be on cloud nine. When we went on our railroad excursion, he forgot to put the walking stick he found in the back of the truck to take home, and you would’ve thought his best friend died. We’ll come back from deer hunting with five year’s worth of walking sticks. On the top of our shed we have two deer skulls and two cougar jaws we found last year and brought home — his trophies.

I’ll admit — my focus shifts a little this time of year. My work focus moves into a maintenance gear — keep things running smoothly, don’t start anything outrageous, let the back-burner items slide onto the edge of the counter. It balances me out until baseball season. Some people celebrate the holidays and summer vacation. I like the seasons less traveled. And that has made all the difference for me.

Nick Kemper