Only in Iowa does one understand the meaning of one-word expression seemingly derived from both the Swedish and Ojibwa languages: "Didyagetcherdeer?" Here it is a well-used term that pretty much sums up our Midwestern commonality. And now that the bulk of the deer hunting seasons are over its time to get to the bottom line. I've seen better deer hunting. A lot better. Success-wise, this year will probably go down in the books as one most of us would like to forget. It wasn't good ... Not good at all. The weather did not cooperate - too warm, no snow and for the most part no deer.
South of Webster City and generally south of U.S. Highway 20, the deer hunting was nothing to write home about. It was for the most part, describable in one word: pitiful.
On the other hand, those hunters that I talked to that hunted north of Webster City did quite well. Quite well indeed. The biggest and best rack I've seen so far was one shot by Wade Johnson. If memory serves me right, it was a 12-pointer. Ironically, I've seen a number of eight- and 10-point road kill racks.
Temperature-wise, things were less than perfect, if there is such a thing as perfect deer hunting temperature. It was too warm to do a lot of walking. Many worked up a bad sweat got too warm and walked around in wet clothing. But on the other hand it was almost too cool to wait on a stand for three or four hours. I've said this many times, but my favorite deer hunting weather is: "Clear as a bell and older than hell, with the dangdest frost that ever fell." That and a fresh blanket of snow on the ground.
OK, I admit it. I am an aberration in this part of the world. After 70-plus years of life in this part of Iowa and the world, I'm still a dyed-in-the-wool deer hunter. I don't think you ever get it completely out of your system. I understand all the reasons and rationale of harvesting deer. The herd needs thinning for its own sake and its meat provides healthy protein, especially for those folks who depend on venison to get them the winter. I grew up eating venison and wild game. But I also like the character and the atmosphere of the hunt. I like the anticipation and the excitement that goes with deer hunting. Especially deer camp.
The world comes to a halt during deer hunting. Everything else takes a back seat to a deer hunt. Almost every house in every neighborhood has a clothesline, deck railing or fence decorated with blaze-orange garments airing out from the year of storage. It's a 10-day holiday and more important than Christmas to many men, women and children. Nearly everyone hunts - doctors, lawyers, dermatologists, pedicurists, even the old lady who sells you toner in the office supply store and yeah, even a few local pastors. If Albert Einstein lived in Hamilton County, he probably would hunt. Heck, Gandhi would hunt if he lived here, though he probably wouldn't eat the meat.
Congratulations to you with freezers filled with venison. May it be tasty and nourishing. I've got a recipe for crock pot venison stew and another for chick-fried deer steak. I'll try to work them into my column over the next several weeks. And some of the best meals I've ever eaten were steaming bowls of venison chili on a cold winter night. I've never had a bad bowl of venison chili. There are probably as many different venison chili recipes out there as there are deer and they are all good. Real good. And like beef chili, the longer venison chili simmers, the better it gets.
They are still here. And more of them. As a general rule one can almost always see four or five bald eagles perched in the trees in the area of the Webster City water treatment plant. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday the parking lot of the old city water works was full of cars, and people sporting binoculars and spotting scopes trying to see the eagles. One lady reported seeing eight eagles down by the city campgrounds between the Second Street bridge and the Bank Street Bridge. And while I was busy trying to empty a cup of coffee the other morning at the Hy-Vee deli, Thyrol McCollough regaled me with a report of someone observing 18 eagles at one time. That's an enormous number of eagles in one spot. I'm sure I heard him correctly. After two cups of coffee, I was wide awake.
And now have a good weekend.