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It's better to be polite

ven though our hunting party usually consists of a bunch of guys, we still like to consider ourselves civilized. We may look a little rough, especially after a few hard days hunting, but in general, we try to be polite and only minimally offensive.

It is always proper to be on time for any function. All of our hunters show up promptly at starting time. Starting time has been designated as between six and nine on Saturday morning. This system works well. The people that show up at six get to start the fire and make the coffee. They can then go wait on the front porch of the cabin for the deer to walk by or hope someone else shows up with food. If starting time is late enough, nobody is tardy. With years of experience, we have determined the deer are in the woods at six and they are still there at nine. There is no point in getting into too much of a hurry.

A certain amount of food must be ingested before the start of the hunt to build strength and keep a person's body warm. As with any gathering, certain foods are traditional. Thanksgiving requires turkey and Christmas would not be complete without a ham.

Breakfast on opening day of deer camp always starts with pickled herring and deer jerky. It would just not be proper to start the hunt without the basics. Over the years, without assignments, we seem to know what we should bring. Dick is always in charge of pickled herring. Do to an injury, he was unable to make deer camp this year. At the last minute while stocking up on food in the grocery store, I remembered to get some herring. I can only imagine how bad breakfast would be without them.

After breakfast, we decide who is going to block and who is going to walk on the first drive. Being a polite group, nobody offers to take the easy job of blocking. It is only easy if one is dressed well for standing on top of a hill facing the freezing wind. I have learned to dress for just such occasions. I do not have to walk the ditches and hills fighting the rose bushes, I just have to keep from freezing to death until the deer come out and the drivers get to me.

After the first drive, everyone was even polite enough not to dwell on the six shots I fired off in rapid succession, but they were rather surprised the field was not stacked high with deer, ready to eat.

On the next drive, I had no choice. I had to walk or I was going to die. A person could not stand the cold by blocking twice in a row.

Scott and I walked to a fence to start our drive. Not only proper etiquette but safety requires the first person to hand their gun to the other guy while crossing a fence. I handed my gun to Scott and stepped over the fence. He then handed both guns to me and attempted the same. His legs are a bit shorter than mine. He began to get entangled on the top barbed wire, presenting the only question that arose all weekend about the polite thing to do.

Scott was stranded with one leg on each side of the fence and unable to go either direction. I stood with a gun in each hand knowing I could not be of much assistance. Even if I had nothing in my hands, I was not about to be of much assistance. There are certain things guys just do not do for other guys. I decided the best thing to do was to laugh at his misfortune, but to be discreet about it.

In later discussion with the full group it was decided I did the right thing. It would be rude to drop your partner's gun and laugh uproariously, but to turn and chuckle quietly while pretending to survey the woods is the best one can do under the circumstances.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.