Jason Hanson had a decision to make this week, one every boy should have to make at least once in a lifetime.
Would he open his first deer season with Dad or Grandpa?
Jason, a 12-year-old from Pequot Lakes, pondered the question long and hard, said his father, Bob Hanson. "Then he came to me," Bob said, "and said kind of quietly, 'Dad, would it be all right if I hunted with Grandpa?'"
Naturally Bob obliged, for lineage is what make's deer hunting special. Clothing, guns, stories are handed down from one generation to the next, and along the way you learn why we do it in the first place.
A question for all who will partake of Saturday's opener: If your father hadn't hunted, and his father before him, would you pile on the blaze orange and stand in a tree before first light Saturday when the temperature is 2 degrees?
Tim Pawlenty reached for 12-year-old Jake Hanson's hat for an autograph, while Jake's dad, Bob Hanson, clad in blaze orange, looked on. Pawlenty was the featured speaker at the Governor's Big Buck Dinner at Cragun's Resort Thursday night.
In the Hanson party, Grandpa is Ambrose Thesing, 83. He's lived in the same house in northeast Brainerd for 49 years, worked at the old Potlatch paper mill -- walked to work most days -- and has hunted deer since 1935. Bob, 52, married Thesing's daughter, Ruth Ann, Jacob's mother. Two other sons and a daughter in the Hanson clan do not hunt deer, though Jesse, the youngest, will join the crew in three years.
Jacob's a rookie this fall by definition only. For the past three seasons he's sat next to Ambrose in his deer stand.
"He's been my ears," said Ambrose, who's partially deaf.
Saturday, Jacob will carry his own gun, a Marlin .30-30 he's practiced with since summer. Ambrose will carry the .30-06 he's used for as long as anybody can remember. Two guns in the same stand, who shoots what and when? A system has been worked out.
It'll be a cold opener
The forecast for the deer hunting opener calls for low temperatures with a chance of snow Sunday afternoon.
The National Weather Service in Duluth reported today that temperatures in the Brainerd lakes area tonight may reach lows of zero to minus 4 with west winds from 5-10 mph.
Saturday's forecast is partly sunny with a high of 25-30 degrees and wind from the south at 10-15 mph. Saturday night will be partly cloudy and warmer with a low of 13-18 degrees and a south wind at 5-15 mph.
For Sunday, temperatures will reach highs of 30-35 degrees, with partly sunny skies, a 20 percent chance of snow Sunday afternoon and a south wind from 10-15 mph.
"If the deer comes from the left," Jacob said, "Grandpa will shoot him 'cause he's left-handed. If it comes from the right I'll shoot him. If it's in the middle we're both going to take him."
Jacob said the man whose land they'll hunt on has guaranteed that he and Ambrose both will have a deer by 9:30 a.m.
If you've hunted deer since 1935 you have a few stories. "One year," Ambrose said, "I was hunting with my brother-in-law and we heard this big commotion. Popple trees cracking and hitting the ground. It was awful. We ran over and found two bucks fighting. I didn't have my gun but he did. He shot six times and missed both deer all six times."
So Jacob, then, likely will be excused at least one good case of buck fever, which just might arrive by 9:30 a.m. Saturday. There's a lot of deer around Pequot Lakes and all of Minnesota. Forecasters say the 2003 kill could set an all-time record.
By nightfall Saturday, Jacob at least will be indoctrinated in the rituals of deer hunting. His gun was sighted in two weeks ago. The stand was set up Sunday, with help from Mom. A community dinner at Cragun's, part of the Governor's Deer Hunting Opener, was attended Thursday night. Licenses were to be bought this morning and a safety clinic was to be attended at Cragun's.
At noon Bob planned to take Jacob to his stand for one last look. Saturday at sunrise it becomes the best place to be in Minnesota. The company of Grandpa makes it even better.
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