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PIONEER PERSPECTIVES: You don’t have to hunt to enjoy deer hunting season

As hunting season kicks off on Saturday, you’ll most likely find me in a deer stand — but I won't be looking to harvest my own deer.

Maggi Fellerman.jpg
Maggi Fellerman is a reporter at the Pioneer focusing on outdoors and human interest stories.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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As hunting season kicks off on Saturday, you’ll most likely find me in a deer stand — but I won't be looking to harvest my own deer.

Although I don’t set out to harvest a deer myself, I hop from stand to stand throughout the weekend doubling as an extra set of eyes and darn good company if I do say so myself. Whether I sit with my sister, my dad, my brother or my nephew, I simply just like being in their presence and being in on the action.

My dad enjoys it, too. Whenever I sit with him it means he gets to take a nap all morning while I stay on the lookout.

I grew up in the small town of Aitkin, and like most places in rural Minnesota, deer hunting is taken very seriously. Growing up we usually had the first Monday after deer opener off from school because no one would have shown up anyway. I remember going to school the next Tuesday and hearing everyone’s stories and being so excited to share mine, too.

I’ve tried my hand at deer hunting, but after I shot a little button buck the size of a large dog when I was a young teen and spent the next hour crying in the woods, I decided to sit on the sidelines for a while. However, I've discovered I like simply observing even more than hunting.

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There’s so much going on in our neck of the woods during hunting season. My parents live right down the road from our hunting shack that sits on the Mississippi River, where our relatives from southern Minnesota stay. It’s nice to have everyone in one place since we only see them about once a year.

Some hunters definitely take it more seriously than others. We have uncle Steve brushing his teeth with baking soda so the deer can’t track his scent when he walks to his stand two hours earlier than he has to. Then there's uncle Lynn who usually doesn’t make it to his stand until happy hour.

However, you don’t have to hunt to enjoy deer hunting season, there are other roles you can take on apart from contributing to the meat in the freezer.

Down the road, you’d find my neighbor, Jackie, waking up even earlier than the hunters to start making her famous homemade donuts from scratch — arguably the best part about hunting season. She probably makes close to a hundred donuts and they’re quick to go, all of us race back after shooting hours to get our hands on one before they’re gone.

My role during hunting season is pretty important, who else would be the designated blood-tracker for the color blind? A couple of my uncles are unable to see the color red in the woods after the shot, that’s when I get a call.

Tracking down a deer is up there with Jackie’s donuts on my list of favorite things about hunting season. Call me Sherlock Holmes because I take that job very seriously. I’ll be out there for hours if I have to, putting together all the puzzle pieces until the deer is in sight.

No offense to any of my uncles, but getting a good photo of you with your deer is a very important part of the job. How are you supposed to brag to your friends about the deer you just harvested when all you have to show is some blurry, zoomed-in cellphone photo? As a photographer, you can bet your bottom dollar I’m getting all my relatives' best angles when I’m out there and making the deer look way bigger than it actually is.

Another one of my favorite parts about hunting season is sitting at the hunting shack when the day is done. The wood stove is toasty, Jackie's donuts are still warm out of the oven, a round of cards is being played and everyone is gathered inside telling stories about their day and — if we’re lucky — fresh venison is sizzling on the grill outside.

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Even the stories that get told a dozen times a year seem to get better every time. Everyone is happy and excited about what the next day will bring.

Looking back at past deer openers I have nothing but the best memories. Whether I was looking to harvest a deer or just sitting and observing, this time of year is one of my favorites. I love seeing the joy it brings hunters of all ages, whether it's their first deer or tenth. I can’t wait to see our family deer hunting traditions grow and get stronger over time.

Whether it’s making hundreds of donuts, helping a friend track down a deer or sitting around with good company, there are parts of deer hunting everyone can enjoy — even if you’re not behind the scope.

I would love to hear some of your favorite parts about hunting season. Give me a call or shoot me an email with your best stories or favorite memories. Happy hunting!

Readers can reach Pioneer reporter Maggi Fellerman at (218) 333-9798 or mfellerman@bemidjipioneer.com.

Maggi is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on outdoor and human interest stories. Raised in Aitkin, Minnesota, Maggi is a graduate of Bemidji State University's class of 2022 with a degree in Mass Communication.
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