Back in the hunt. But only vicariously.

The time has come for another return to my actual and figurative homeland - northern Wisconsin. As so often happens this time of year, the visit is measured in the number of Green Bay Packer games I'll be there to watch in their natural environment (two - Sunday's Battle of the Bays AND the more awesome TurkeyDaze game versus the slumping but still worrisome Lions). However, the other significant measure of this time of year for so many native Wisconsinites is (gun) deer hunting season. I don't hunt. But I grew up doing so. That season starts tomorrow. While it only goes on for nine days, I argue that it is the cultural epicenter of each Fall heading toward Winter in Wisconsin. Aside from any given gameday at Lambeau Field in Green Bay or at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. In terms of hunting, I would argue that the act itself is actually secondary. Where the lessons are re-learned annually is clustered around the hunting cabins and country bars, where awareness of full-on winter's arrival and the concept of putting away some venison for that season drives so many into the woods. Plenty of folks (who unlike me) still hunt every year might tweak my sentimental analysis. That's certainly their right. Still, I grew up in it. And I'll call it as I see it. Bear in mind, I went through the DNR's hunter safety course in 7th Grade like almost all of the other boys in the area who couldn't wait to get out in the woods with their families. I walked those woods every year until I went off to college. At it's best, that was the time to reorient with the woods that would otherwise be largely unseen throughout the seasons. I was born into a fortunate group of hunters. We had land to hunt on. And no matter what people feel they know about the hunting, I understand the enduring appeal of going back to that land whenever possible. It will be vicariously interesting to be back there at this time - my first Thanksgiving week visit to the Northwoods in what seems like a decade. Almost everyone I know who's still back there will be hunting. While the emergence of a growing wolf population (and even a few rumored cougars) has scared off much of the deer population, I look forward to the inevitable gossip and speculation about how the woods look and how the hunt is going. I'll still get out there in the early mornings, wearing a blaze orange vest when I go running. Along many of those same country roads that we would disembark from back in the days of my own full-fledged participation in the culture. Wish me luck. Don't worry. It's safe out there. And fascinating.