Archive | December, 2013

The forgotten Christmas carol verses

December 23, 2013

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Christmas carols make the season joyful. They also help us reflect on our faith.
Photo/di_the_huntress. Licensed under Creative Commons.

If you think you know Christmas carols by heart, try singing all the verses.

It seems like many Christmas carols and hymns have been distilled into short tunes that are strung together to form instrumental “carol medleys.”

I hear them on the radio, in doctor’s offices and in stores. Even at Mass we rarely sing more than a couple verses of any carol.

It’s too bad because there’s a lot more to many of these carols than we often hear at Christmas. Sing all the verses and there is sometimes a real story connecting the incarnation with Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, or a story of someone’s struggle.

“We Three Kings of Orient Are” is a familiar carol–until we go past the first verse and chorus. The next verses describe each of the kings’ gifts. Have you ever heard this verse on the radio?

Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gath’ring gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

That’s pretty heavy for a Christmas carol but it was Christ’s life. The carol does have a happier ending:

Glorious now behold him rise,
King and God and sacrifice;
Heav’n sing “Hallelujah!”
“Hallelujah!” earth replies.

The final verse of “O Holy Night” tells of Jesus’ mission and of his victory:

Truly he taught us to love one another;
His law is love, and his gospel is peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise his holy name.
Christ is the Lord, oh, praise his name forever!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!

When we sing  “O Little Town of Bethlehem”  we’re probably thinking about “the silent stars going by” not our redemption. We don’t often get to the fourth verse:

O holy Child of Bethlehem!
descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in,
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel.

Probably the most personal story I’ve heard in a Christmas carol is in “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The lyrics of this carol are taken from a poem by American poet  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow written in 1863.

The opening verse is familiar:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

But the fifth and  following verses are not so Christmasy. Longfellow wrote the poem after his wife died and his son left to join the Union army during the Civil War:

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

I waited to see if Longfellow would regain his hope. Thankfully he did:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Besides offering the joy of the season, Christmas carols tell a real story. They help us reflect on Christ’s birth and life. If you want to know more about the forgotten verses, check out this large collection of lyrics and recordings of Christmas carols and hymns.

Have a Blessed Christmas!

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Shotgun problem solved… probably

December 19, 2013

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I picked up my shotgun today from Joe’s Sporting Goods in Roseville. I missed a shot at a deer at 15 yards during the firearms season and I wanted the store’s gunsmith to check it out. I suspected maybe it was my scope, as my brother had experienced a similar problem several years ago.

But, the gunsmith did not find a problem with the scope. He fired three test rounds at 25 yards and got a very tight group, with the holes touching each other. He even gave me the target he used for the test shots, along with the box of ammo he used, which had two rounds left in it.

In talking things over with someone in the gun department, it looks like the problem most likely is the new ammo that I tried this fall. I used to use Federal shotgun slugs, called Barnes Expanders. But, the company quit making them earlier this year after Barnes was bought out by another company and terminated its contract with Federal to supply the sabot slugs used in this round.

So, I tried a new offering by Federal, and it appears that it doesn’t work well in my gun. I had trouble sighting in these slugs two weeks before the season, but finally seemed to get them dialed in.

But, I didn’t hit the deer with them when I used them in the field. I fired four times at the doe and never touched her. That’s enough to convince me to try another slug.

I plan on going with the slugs the gunsmith used, also made by Federal. The company has made these for a long time, the guy in Joe’s gun department told me, and it’s very likely they won’t be discontinued any time soon.

And, the best part is they are very modestly priced – $6.99 for a box of five. That’s several dollars less than I paid for a box of Barnes Expanders. Even though I was happy to pay more for the Barnes Expanders, I’m tickled that these slugs cost less.

Hopefully, they will work just as well when next firearms deer season rolls around!

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Not too cold for grilled venison!

December 18, 2013

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I’m sure my next-door neighbor was giving me a funny look when I went outside the other night to fire up my charcoal grill.

He was shoveling his driveway. Usually, shoveling and grilling don’t happen at the same time. For most folks, the grilling season ends by Thanksgiving and doesn’t start up again until the snow melts and the birds start singing.

I’m a little different. My grilling season never ends. That does not mean I have no limits. When temperatures plunged down into the single digits recently, my grill stood idle on my back deck.

But, the mercury pushed up to a balmy mark near 30 degrees on Monday, so I decided it was time for grilled venison steaks. The cold didn’t bother me as I poured charcoal into my metal cylinder and stuffed two pages of newspaper underneath. It did take a couple tries, but the coals eventually heated up to a beautiful red glow.

This meal was going to be special, featuring the first meal of steaks from the buck I killed with my bow in early November. Because I was trying for my first deer with a bow, I chose to take a smaller buck. The decision was made easy by the fact that this deer presented a perfect broadside shot at 10 yards, which is every bowhunter’s hope while sitting in a stand.

Now was going to be the payoff, I said to myself as I pulled the marinated steaks out of the refrigerator. Every deer hunter likes to take a big buck, which I did a year ago. But, true meat lovers like me know that the best tasting deer are the younger ones. And, a young buck is the best of all because it has a larger, adult body, but is young enough for the meat to be tender.

So, taking this deer was a no-brainer. The good news is, the area I hunt in the metro seems to have lots of small bucks. I have seen eight so far this archery season, and I’m sure there are even more roaming the woods. Interestingly, I have read recently that metro areas, particularly those off limits to hunting or open only to archery hunting, can have more bucks than areas that allow gun hunting.

I think a major reason for this is that the younger bucks are often very active in the fall, roaming the woods looking for does and often getting run off by bigger bucks. Plus, they are less wary and educated than older bucks, which are highly adept at avoiding hunters.

Thus, I am optimistic that I will continue to see small bucks on this property, though sighting a bigger one would be just fine, too! On the other hand, it’s very hard to argue against harvesting a young buck once the meat ends up on your plate.

And, I have to say, the grilled venison steaks from this young buck did NOT disappoint. They were delicious. I cooked them medium to medium rare, and I used a marinade created by some friends of mine, Bob and Christine Brickweg. Christine would not call herself a gourmet chef, but she definitely knows how to prepare venison!

Her marinade, which I simply call the “Brickweg marinade,” is very simple to make. You buy packets of Italian dressing and make it according to the directions on the back of the packet. But, you need to make two key substitutions. Instead of regular vegetable oil, use olive oil. And, instead of vinegar, use balsamic vinegar.

I usually make a double recipe with two packets. Then, you pour over the meat and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours, flipping the meat over halfway through the process to make sure the marinade soaks into both sides. I usually do the marinade right before I go to bed, then flip the meat the next morning. But the time the coals are hot, I’m good to go!

If you were fortunate to get a deer this fall, give this recipe a try. I am convinced that you will not be disappointed!

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The Poor (and the Cold) Will Always Be With Us

December 11, 2013

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Snowman in St. Paul

Snowman in St. Paul

On my way to work – I saw this (picture attached) where I usually see the homeless man asking for money.
It is sort of cute – being a little snow man on the corner of a busy St. Paul intersection, but it brought me to think of whom I usually see there and why I need to care if he has found some shelter.

For the last 5 years I have been driving by this spot and I often see someone asking for money. Different people. Some young, some old. Some have signs that they carry, others don’t. For a while I wouldn’t give them any change because I had bought into that idea that it might be someone who would use my money for drugs or alcohol, but lately I have changed my thoughts on that. It has caused me to reflect on what Jesus said.

“The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me.” Matthew 26:11

A friend recently told me that after volunteering at various food shelves and homeless shelters that she had come to a revelation. She said “We want the poor to be like us” meaning that when we give, we want the people that we help to become like us. We put conditions on our giving. While we would like to make sure that every opportunity is given to those in need to break out of the chains of poverty; that is not why we help the poor. We give and help, because we can. We give because every person is made in God’s image. We give because we wouldn’t want to miss out on the chance to serve Jesus.

In the Temptations Faced by Pastoral Workers from Evangelii Gaudium, Holy Father says in paragraph 85:
“One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, ‘sourpusses’. Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents.”

It is easy to think and say “I have given enough” or “Others will take care of them” or “They might just use my money for drugs” or   “I will only give to an organization” but maybe that is the defeatism that Pope Francis is referring to.

So for now I keep a dollar or two handy to give when I can and try to remember this prayer of Blessed Mother Teresa while I pray that the man I ususally see on this corner isn’t as cold as the snowman that he left behind.

Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. Amen.

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Wisconsin turkey lottery deadline is today!

December 10, 2013

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For those thinking ahead to spring, it’s time to act if you want to hunt gobblers in Wisconsin. Today is the deadline for applying in the Wisconsin wild turkey lottery. Those who go to the wild turkey page on the Wisconsin DNR can apply online as well as learn all of important details about the spring turkey season.

I have gone every year since 2007 and have failed to tag a tom just once. Six out of seven years isn’t bad! Even last year, when a monster storm hit right during my season in early May, I managed to take a nice mature tom. It was a very unusual hunt – in the snow in May. But, I happened to set up near where a very eager gobbler was roosted. I started walking toward the woods at about 5:15 a.m. and had my bird just a little before 6. It was my fastest hunt ever.

I firmly believe this year will be excellent. There were lots of birds around last year where I hunted, but very few got shot. I think the cold spring turned many hunters away. And, with good reason. The birds were not very cooperative overall, and lots of hunters went home empty handed.

That just leaves more turkeys for this year. Not only that, the hatch was very good the year before, which should mean lots of 2-year-old toms gobbling in the woods. Last year, I saw a group of seven or eight jakes (young toms) on one of the properties I hunt, and none of them were taken, even though I shot at them several times.

So, those birds should be back this year – and I can’t wait!

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‘The Catechism of Hockey’: not just for sports fans

December 10, 2013

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It doesn’t matter whether you have season tickets to the Minnesota Wild or don’t know what to call that black disc thingy on the ice rink. In her book “The Catechism of Hockey,” Alyssa Bormes will help you understand the complexities of the Catholic Church using hockey analogies.

Cat of Hockey CoverSkeptics, take heed. Bormes is the first to admit she knew very little about hockey before writing the book. (Her “technical adviser” is a friend’s son and bonafide hockey player.) But for me, who has only a fascination with hockey because of the fights, the parallels Bormes makes between the sport and my faith make complete sense. (Sports enthusiasts, please don’t dismiss my opinion just because I proclaim my sports apathy. Surely, between my Gopher hockey fan of a brother and my husband, who takes an interest in everything from football to curling, I know how important sports are.)

Bormes compares going to “the box” in hockey to going to the confessional. She suggests that we’re at our best in the confessional; our worst was when we were sinning. The redemption found in the confessional brings us back to playing at “full strength.”

She pushes us past the analogies and makes us question why we don’t put as much fervor into our faith as we do our beloved sports:

“In hockey, families will sacrifice physically, spiritually, and financially. . . . We rarely ask our children to physically and spiritually sacrifice when it comes to the Faith. This is exactly why offering it up has been relegated to a type of Catholic humor. Yet, suffering for the Faith doesn’t break the souls of our youth, it elevates them. There is a great satisfaction in having given everything — putting the heart into it. When our youth learn to serve, to really offer up, to be Christ to others, they experience a new sort of victory.”

web.Alyssa BormesBormes merges two worlds that are often separate, but shouldn’t be. People talk about the game after Mass, but do they ever talk about God during the game? The book has been lauded as an unconventional evangelizing tool. And rightly so. Her approach makes people ask themselves: What am I doing to live my faith, to share my faith?

What gives merit to the book is Bormes’ personal story of how she took a 17-year hiatus from the Church only to return with gusto — speaking about her faith publicly, studying in Rome, receiving a master’s degree in Catholic studies, leading retreats and teaching Catechism.

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Comic strip not funny

December 9, 2013

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pajama diaries

 What is the best gift parents can give their kids?

The answer is simple: siblings!

The Monday, December 2 Pajama Diaries comic strip rubbed me the wrong way. I waited a few days, hoping author, Terry Libenson, was going to run a another strip showcasing the pros of having a baby during a mother’s “Advanced Maternal Age,” but she didn’t.

It’s been a week and I’m still waiting.

Why does the media portray babies as burdens? When I was 42, my husband and I discovered I was “preggers” with twins. We already had seven children at home, and our youngest was eight. Of course we were a bit shocked to get the news, but feelings of excitement kicked in as quickly as my hormones. Our anticipation was contagious, in fact, many of our friends confided in us that they wished they would have had more children; that they were feeling sad about their fledgling chickadees and soon-to-be-empty nests.

During my pregnancy no one would have thought “Poor woman” for me, that’s for sure (except for my humongous twin belly!).

How is the world supposed to build a culture of life when the media makes pregnancy seem like a disease?

Our identical boys, born when I was nearly 43 and my husband 44, have been just the medicine we’ve needed. Sure we lost loads of sleep and our sofas are smeared with God-knows-what, but quite honestly, they are a hoot and a half (as Minnesotans say). Now that they are four, we have experienced many blessings “caboose babies” bring to their families. Here are a few examples:

Why every couple should have “Bonus Blessings”:

1.  Unlike the comic strip shown above, the correct attitude should be “Lucky Kids!” not “Poor kids!” In all reality, children who welcome siblings into the home when they are pretty big themselves (through parents birthing them or adopting them) learn unconditional love better than anyone else! Last week I overheard one of our high school girls saying to her little brothers: “You’re my best friends!” She then chased them around the room and tickled them. Her friends love to come over and play with them, too. Does this sound like a kid who should be pitied?

2.  The big brothers and sisters learn to be the “bestest” future parents! (My husband used to ring out his caboose sister’s poopey diapers in the toilet, and braid her hair when she got older. I know this is one reason he’s such a great hands-on dad!) Of course not all couples are able to have more than one baby. Our third son is dating an only child. Her parents were married in their mid forties and welcomed their miracle girl a year later. Kelly loves to be with not only our cabooses, but our other kids, too. She feels like they are her own siblings. She brings them hand-me-down clothes and home-made cookies. Our little ones are the “sugar” she craves; the siblings she never had, and they are teaching her how to be a super mom!

3.  The old adage: “They keep you young” is spot on! My husband and I are pushing the double jogging stroller on runs when we could be lounging on a couch. We’re taking the tykes swimming when we could be sunbathing. We’re building snowmen when we could be inside sipping tea. We’re wrestling in the family room when we could be writing emails, and cleaning crumbs from the floor–on our knees–when we could have nearly spotless floors by now. Remember the saying: “Use ’em or lose ’em”?

4.  We meet younger couples at the park, church, preschool and the neighborhood. My in-laws claim that this is one of the best perks of having kids later in life. I now know people who are about 15 years younger than I am who give me lessons on hip fashion, travel pointers and activity ideas. These tips help me to be a better mom to all our children. In return, I answer myriad parenting questions for these younger parents and give them encouragement. (With nine kids, we don’t have all of the answers…but we DO have some!)

5.  What about the cabooses you may ask? Well, these bonus babies grow up secure in the fact that they are loved, because there are sooo many big people in the family who love them. Our oldest son was in college when the twins were born. When he is home for the summer and holidays, he can’t get enough of the twins. This weekend, he and his girlfriend took our twins and girls to see the animated movie “Frozen.” Why would he do this if he thought the cabooses were a cold burden?

6.  As grown-ups, these bonus babies help take care of their parents. I don’t mean this is a burden…but is in fact, something quite beautiful. The adult cabooses I know bring their little children to visit Grandma and Grandpa when their older siblings might be busy hauling kids to high school and college events. They are able to do this because their lives are in a different place than their older brothers and sisters. My aunt had her mother live with them. I’m sure it wasn’t all a bed of roses, but her mother helped with babysitting and household chores, and she told the grandkids the best stories ever! My sister-in-law helps her parents with their computer needs–something with which her older siblings are not as talented. My friend used to do her mother’s hair and buy her clothes. These adult cabooses look at the time they spend with their parents with much fondness, I never hear them say, “Oh poor me!”

And one thing is for sure…parents of bonus babies are never lonely! Now, isn’t that bonus a terrific blessing?

 

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St. Nicholas and the worldly spirit of Christmas

December 6, 2013

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Like a big, friendly dog that wants to rough house in the living room, the worldly spirit of Christmas jumps all over our quiet Advent.

All the music, shopping,  parties and expectation steal our attention so it’s hard to focus on purple candles, prayer and waiting for Jesus’ coming.

Today’s saint knew that Christ was the true joy of Christmas, so now he probably shakes his head at how his red-suited “descendant,” Santa Claus, has made his Christian charity in gift-giving so secular and commercial.

No doubt he prays for us especially during this season, as we try to keep the worldliness of  Christmas at bay so we can prepare our hearts through prayer and little acts of charity.

Nicholas is famous for giving gifts but he did a lot more than that. He was probably born in about 280 AD of wealthy Christian parents in Patara (now Demre, Turkey). He received an inheritance which he gave to the needy.

A source of our Santa tradition is the story of how Nicholas secretly delivered three bags of gold to a destitute father’s home so he could give his daughters dowries. It’s believed the bags landed in shoes or stockings drying by the fire. Despite his attempts at secrecy, Nicholas, by then a priest, was elected bishop of Myra.

During the persecution of Diocletian, some accounts say Nicholas was imprisoned and tortured. It is believed that he participated in the Council of Nicaea in 325 and strongly denounced the Arian heresy, which asserted that Jesus is not truly divine but a created being.

According to another legend, when the governor had been bribed to execute three innocent men, Nicholas intervened and won their release. After three officers who had witnessed the men’s release were themselves falsely accused and condemned to death, they remembered Nicholas and prayed for his intercession. That night, Nicholas appeared to the Emperor Constantine in a dream, asking for the officers’ release. When the emperor questioned the officers and learned of their prayer for Nicholas’ intercession, he freed them.

After a life of service to the Lord, Nicholas died around 343 and was buried in Myra.

Before Santa was even imagined, Nicholas was long venerated in the Church, especially by the Orthodox. Many churches are dedicated to the saint. In 1087, merchants from Bari, Italy, took Nicholas’ relics to their city, where they are still located.

Every year the’ relics are exumed and they exude a clear liquid called manna which is believed to have healing properties. It’s a pretty amazing story about this amazing saint which you can read at a website all about St. Nicholas.

St. Nicholas, prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming and show us the true Spirit of Christmas.

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Trying to solve a tricky shotgun problem

December 6, 2013

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I bought my Remington 11-87 shotgun in 1995 from Joe’s Sporting Goods in St. Paul, which now is located on County Road B near Rice Street just off of Interstate 694.

Within a year or two, I bought a Leupold Shotgun scope, at the recommendation of Jim Rauscher, one of the owners of Joe’s. I have not been sorry for that decision, having killed at least a dozen deer with that scope and gun combination.

In fact, last year with that shotgun, I killed the biggest buck I have ever taken. Thus, I was brimming with confidence again this year when I went out into the field with my trusty 11-87 on opening day of the firearms season Nov. 9.

Alas, the gun failed me for the first time. On the second day of the season, a small doe came around behind my stand and stepped out into the picked corn field in front of me. I had a perfect 15-yard broadside shot to my left. Amazingly, after I pulled the trigger, the deer ran out into the field and stood there. I shot again, then it took off. I fired two more times, and the deer crossed the field without a scratch.

Meanwhile, I was left scratching my head trying to figure out how that could happen. I thought back to when I had sighted in the gun two weeks earlier. I had some trouble getting it zeroed in, with a few shots unexplainably missing the mark. I finally got it dialed in – or so I thought – and figured I was good to go.

I was wrong. I ended up getting only that one shot opportunity, so I walked away from the firearms season a bit frustrated. Today, I decided to take action. I took the gun to Joe’s and handed it over to the store’s trusty gunsmith, Bob Everson, to take a look at it.

I also plan on sending the scope in to Leupold for a thorough examination if need be. The guy I talked to at Joe’s said the people in the Leupold repair shop strip down the scope and go over it in fine detail. If something is wrong with the scope, he assured me, they will find it and fix it.

The good news is that Leupold has a lifetime warranty for all of its scopes. So, in all likelihood, whatever may be wrong with my scope will be covered under the lifetime warranty.

That’s why it pays to buy a product like Leupold. These scopes cost a little more than some others, but the quality plus lifetime warranty are more than worth it. I’ve had the scope about 17 years and this is the first problem I’ve had with it. Other cheaper brands sometimes don’t even last this long. So, the $220 I spent on this scope has proved to be a worthwhile investment.

To others who have had equipment problems this year, I say now’s the time to do something about it. The frustration and disappointment are still fresh, and there’s plenty of time to resolve the issue before next season. If you put away a faulty gun or bow into storage, you may not pull it out and take it in for repairs until it’s too late to have it ready to go before the next season.

Don’t wait. Trust me, the disappointment of seeing a deer run off unharmed after taking what should be a sure kill shot is a bad feeling. I hope it never happens again.

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Finally… some deer in Montana!

December 2, 2013

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After days of tough hunting, Joe Hrbacek finally takes a whitetail doe in Montana.

After days of tough hunting, Joe Hrbacek finally takes a whitetail doe in Montana.

When I hunt whitetail deer in Montana, it’s usually not a matter of if I get a deer, but when. This year was different, however.

Vastly different. I went to Great Falls with my wife Julie and four kids, and three of us bought whitetail doe tags. With the price of a buck tag set at $500-plus, going after does is the only affordable option.

Unfortunately, this year featured a severe outbreak of a disease called EHD, which is spread by a midge that hatches in water. Massive whitetail die-offs were reported across the state in late September and early October. Some areas saw death rates as high as 90 percent.

We normally hunt about an hour east of Great Falls. My father-in-law, Bob Guditis, said he saw only one or two whitetails in the area the entire fall before we got out there on Nov. 24. His outlook was bleak, to the point of suggesting that we try hunting for something different, like ducks and geese.

We contemplated this option, but in the end, felt like we wanted to try for whitetails. The allure of venison is just too strong for us to resist. Besides, we were trying to get deer for people here in Minnesota who walked away from the firearms season empty-handed.

So, my two oldest sons, Joe and Andy, and I all bought the doe tags and decided to struggle through the tough conditions. We found out very quickly that Grandpa Bob was spot on about the whitetails. On the first morning of our hunt, we went to the usual places where we had killed deer in the past, and saw no whitetails anywhere.

Time for Plan B

So, we had to formulate a different option. Because hunting for whitetails was closed north and west of the Missouri River, which cuts through Great Falls, we had to stay south and east. We found some state land and Block Management Area parcels to hunt, and went at it on Tuesday. Plus, Grandpa Bob owned a small piece of land right on the Missouri, on the side of the river open to hunting.

We did see some whitetails, but the sightings were way down from previous years. It’s a spot-and-stalk game in Montana, and we were able to go on just four stalks the entire week. I was trying to help the boys get their deer, so when we were together, I always tried to let them be the shooters. When we split up, I could take my turn on the trigger.

Problem was, every time we split up, the result was always the same for me – no deer. That didn’t bother me, as long as the boys still got their chances.

They had a nice opportunity on Wednesday evening, when a doe and fawn came out into a field. However, they couldn’t get as close as they wanted, and had to take long shots, which they missed. I was about a half mile away and heard the shots, but nothing came out for me.

Finally, on Friday about 1 p.m., we saw a group of does with a buck on a piece of state land. The three of us began the stalk, with the conditions being favorable. The deer were facing away from us and the wind was in our face. Plus, there was just enough contour on the land to allow us to move in undetected.

However, about 200 yards in, a doe jumped up to our left and ran behind us. We figured it was one of the deer in the group we originally spotted, and that it had seen us and spooked. The others were sure to jump up and run, too, we thought. But, they didn’t. And, amazingly, this particular doe eventually stopped about 500 yards beyond us and stood there. Not only that, she was looking away from us.

Time for action

So, Andy decided to try and stalk in on this deer, while Joe and I went after the others. Andy got to within about 150 yards and laid down for a shot. Meanwhile, Joe and I snuck in on the other does and buck. Joe made it to a post that was well within rifle range and sat up to get ready to shoot. I hung back to make sure I didn’t spook any deer before he got a chance to pull the trigger.

I alternated between watching Joe and watching Andy. Eventually, I saw Andy get ready to shoot, and then heard his shot. I watched the deer through my binoculars as it ran off. It went about 75 to 100 yards and dropped. Then, I turned my attention to Joe, who was still lining up his shot. I found out later the strong winds blowing in his face were making it very difficult to steady his rifle. Unfortunately, it was not possible to lay down for the shot, which is one effective way of dealing with wind.

Finally, Joe took a shot at one of the does, which was bedded in the grass. He thinks his shot went low. The two does and buck jumped up and ran off. He shot again, but didn’t connect. It is about impossible to hit a deer that is spooked and running at full speed.

The good news is, Joe got another chance the very next day. This time, the deer was only about 80 yards away and standing broadside. Joe didn’t miss this time, and that pushed our deer total to two for the trip.

As for me, I never fired a shot the entire time. That’s OK. I wanted the boys to get a deer way more than I wanted one for myself. I have been in the woods quite a bit this fall, and was able to take my first deer with a bow. That makes my season a success, no matter what would happen after that. Joe, on the other hand, had only the six days of this trip to deer hunt. When we spotted the two does on Saturday, he offered me the chance to stalk in on them, based on the fact that he had shot at deer twice already.

But, there was no way I was going to take this chance away from him. And, the smile on his face after the doe went down confirmed that I had made the right choice. It meant that all three deer hunters in our family got a deer this year.

Tough season overall

That’s an amazing feat, considering how tough the season has been this year. Theories abound as to why, but almost every deer hunter in Minnesota this year is saying that it has been a tough season and that deer sightings are down. And, of course, the disease outbreak in Montana is making its whitetail hunting even more difficult than in Minnesota.

So, I am VERY happy with our results this year. And, deer hunting is not over yet. There is the archery season here in Minnesota, which goes until the end of the month. I hope to get out a time or two before it closes. I’m thinking it would be nice to get out after we have some snow on the ground. Then, you can see where the deer are moving. Plus, tracking is a lot easier with snow on the ground. That was the case when I shot my buck with a bow in early November.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll get another deer with my bow. That would be fun. And, it would give me more venison to eat and share with family and friends.

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