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Blaze orange means it's 'harvest time'

Deer hunters will be plentiful this week during the Minnesota firearms deer season. Yet due to a warm fall, anglers will be out as well, both taking part in harvesting wild game. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Beginning today, orange will be the most popular color in the woods, gas stations and sporting goods stores.

A congregation of deer hunters will emerge, having polished their firearms, aired-out their pumpkin-hued coveralls and invested in bottles of scents, smells and stinks in preparation for the 2010 firearms deer opener.

For nine consecutive days of the deer season and a few weeks after, I await the question that's as common as blaze orange: "So did you get a deer?"

"Nope, I never do." I simply don't hunt anymore. Yes, it's certainly an oddity that I love the outdoors so much, yet don't partake in the tradition of deer hunting. However, I do live vicariously through the experiences of my three hunter-gatherer stepsons.

Instead, my annual tradition for the past ten years is to hunt a trophy of another kind - one that swims and has fins - with my father. Though we have both hunted deer, fishing is simply our preference.

"You better wear blaze orange out on the lake," some friends have advised, but if a hunter truly believes they see a deer driving my boat across the water, stopping to cast and hopefully net a fish, maybe it's my time to go.

Although I don't hunt anymore, it's still interesting to hear the tales of humor, great fortune and buck-fever and witness the total harvest numbers for the area.

I've often wondered about the use of that word "harvest" for both hunting and fishing.

The DNR harvests walleye eggs in the spring, we harvest fish using a rod and reel, and deer are harvested by both bows and firearms during the annual deer harvest.

The word, to me, evokes an image of someone walking, carrying a straw basket down a crop row, stopping next to each bush spaced evenly in a line and squeezing the crop to see if it's ripe before harvesting it; one row of bushes for deer and another for fish. Just make sure to save the seeds to plant another crop to harvest next year.

The authority on spelling, pronunciation and definition, Merriam-Webster, has a number of proper definitions for the word "harvest" in both noun and verb form.

Though many do relate to crops, one verb definition states, "to gather, catch, hunt, or kill (as salmon, oysters, or deer) for human use, sport, or population control."

I suppose Noah Webster, who published his first dictionary in 1806, and George and Charles Merriam, who secured publishing and revision rights to Webster's previous work following his death in 1843, didn't realize that my dad and I would harvest walleye this weekend, not salmon, oysters or society's preference, deer.

As a noun, the Merriam-Webster Collegiate dictionary includes, "the quantity of a natural product gathered in a single season" in their definitions of the word harvest.

The dictionary has gone through numerous changes over the past 204 years, but the publisher may not realize that in Northern Minnesota, we have three seasons; winter, not winter, and deer season.