Deer hunting is a way of life. If you were raised in Minnesota, and I was (thank the Lord), there are endless tales of deer hunting, spun around a fire the night before the season opens.
My home was no exception.
A lot of my family and many of our friends would come stay the night before opening. I was a boy lost in the fairy dust of stories, and I loved every moment of it, could not get enough.
At our house, it would always come around to a big buck my Dad had been trying to get for years. That buck had outsmarted us all, mostly my dad, for years.
The old boy had many ways of getting around us. In drives, he would sneak back through us – all you would get was glancing look at him. A drive is when a lot of people would spread out, then work their way through the trees. In front of the drive, three or four men or women would be on a stand. We were sure sometimes that buck would tease my dad, giving him just glance but not enough time to shoot. If you did see him, he had an old doe with him, always staying right between you and him. Very smart.
This contest went on for years. That buck was also the main character in many tales around the fire at my house.
One year, I was about 10 years old, all had gathered at our house, the night before opening. The stories were just getting started, when my dad went out in the kitchen to get a drink of water. We all heard him yell, “Come here! You’re not going to believe this!”
We all rushed to the kitchen to see what in the world was wrong. My dad was pointing out the window, “Look at that.”
There stood that old buck. He was so old he was white all the way over his shoulders. In fact, he could hardly hold up his horns. His head kept rolling from side to side.
My dad, I think I saw a tear on his cheek. Softly, he said, “I believe he came into show me he won and ask me a favor. Tomorrow, he will show himself to me so I can do him a big favor – a favor that was just asked for by an old friend and will be delivered tomorrow by an old friend. I can’t let a wolf, or anything else, take him down and slowly kill him.”
A storyteller, John Zentz, 87, will share a blend of fact and fiction in his bimonthly column. Some tales he’s lived through, some he’s been told. Zentz and his family are longtime Hubbard County residents. He has a picture of his grandmother and grandfather, seven times removed, sitting on a porch in Park Rapids.