Here's one hunter's look at how Gov. Tim Pawlenty did on his first deer hunt.
Pawlenty arrives late at Thursday's Big Buck Community Dinner.
Most of us were into our desserts by then and deer hunters find little fault with the world when wolfing down cheesecake. But the governor didn't have to circle the room and shake hands before sitting down to eat. Formalities can wait. Next time he should dive right into dinner. Hunters are used to seeing other hunters do that.
Pawlenty takes the podium, tells a few jokes and says he's delighted to take part in this great Minnesota tradition.
Deer hunters love jokes, even bad ones, and we like being told we're part of a great tradition. It helps offset what we're told when we skip out on the family for a week.
Pawlenty is in his treestand by 6 a.m. with a .30-06 rifle he borrowed from his brother.
Sunrise on Nov. 8 was at 7:06 a.m., so the governor was ready to go more than a half-hour before legal shooting time. Good move. Better to stumble through the woods in the dark than show up when deer already are moving. And the .30-06 is a fine choice of gun, guaranteed to drop any whitetail with a well-placed shot.
"Lots of deer tracks, squirrels and birds, but no deer," said Pawlenty, who kept a lookout on his treestand with his chief of staff, Charlie Weaver.
Hey, fellas, spread out a little. No need for two adults to occupy the same treestand. Company isn't required in the woods. In fact, long hours alone are essential to deer hunting, especially long hours when the temperature hangs around zero and you wonder why you've taken up this godforsaken sport in the first place.
Bored after nearly five hours on the stand, Pawlenty and Weaver took turns blasting away at a tree stump.
Boredom on the deer stand is understandable, but blasting away at a tree stump guarantees that a deer will not come your way. After hundreds of years of being shot at, deer have learned to head the other way when the lead starts flying.
On the other hand, a little target practice is good. But next year the governor should do it before the opener. Budget matters and other political gumbo can wait until after the gun is sighted in.
"It was cold and I made a mistake," Pawlenty said. "I had sock warmers but small ones, so I took a break about 8:30 and went to the truck to warm up."
Yeah, it was darn cold on opening morning. But leaving the stand at 8:30 a.m.? That's prime time. Next year the governor should pack a Thermos with hot chocolate or coffee. It's amazing how long you can tough it out on a deer stand when you have something hot to drink.
Pawlenty fails to bag a deer. In fact, he doesn't even see one.
Not getting a deer isn't unusual. We've all been there a time or two. But not even seeing a deer in Area 242, where the number of deer per acre is among the highest in the state? The governor might want to consult more closely with his stand managers next season.
"Maybe I listened to Kent Hrbek's safety tips too closely," Pawlenty joked. "He told me it's pretty hard to shoot somebody if your gun is always pointed toward the sky. If I get out deer hunting next year, I gotta remember to lower my rifle."
A self-deprecating sense of humor is a deer hunter's most important asset. Without it we'd all go nuts.
Don't give up the hunt, governor, there are a lot of deer in Minnesota. You might not even need a second term to get one.
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