North Dakota deer season is family time

(Kim Fundingsland/Minot Daily News via AP)

COLEHARBOR, N.D. (AP) — The state’s deer gun hunting season got underway at noon Nov. 4, a date many had circled on the calendar several months in advance. It’s called deer season, but for thousands of state residents it’s really a good old-fashioned outdoor family reunion.

Certainly there’s the anticipation and hope of filling a deer tag but the reality is, for many, it is a chance to share time together outdoors, rekindle friendships and otherwise enjoy quality time in the field with good company.

Courtney Stennes of Bismarck was hunting in the Lake Audubon area opening weekend with her father and uncle. For her, like many others, the season has a much greater meaning than just harvesting a deer.

“It’s something I do to spend time with my dad and my grandpa,” Stennes told the Minot Daily News. “Now I have little boys. Hopefully I’ll teach them, once they get a little older, the fun of hunting and being outdoors.”

Stennes’ grandfather has passed away but the memories of him and past deer hunts remain strong. Wearing blaze orange and included in her hunting party was her uncle, Jude Slabodnik of Williston.

“My wife wanted to get rid of me this weekend,” laughed Slabodnik when asked why he was in the field. “Really, I enjoy it, being out with my brother-in-law and niece. I don’t hunt for the horns.”

There’s another reason for the hunt too, said Slabodnik. He enjoys the taste of good venison sausage, a staple for almost every deer hunter.

The third member of the small hunting party was Stennes’ father, Jay Meier of Bismarck.

“Just good to be in the outdoors,” said Meier. Then, noting the reasonably warm weather and lack of snow cover, he added, “It’s almost too nice for deer hunting but it is fun to be out.”

Derek Page of Fargo filled his doe tag while hunting near Washburn. He was hunting with his two sons but was the only member of the party with a tag.

“It’s kind of another holiday, isn’t it?” said Page while son Kyle was occupied with a supply of chocolate chip cookies made for the occasion. “It is the thing to do in North Dakota. I have no complaints, getting lots of exercise, spending time with my kids and getting outdoors.”

With his deer tag filled early in the day and plenty of daylight remaining, Page wasn’t about to pass on the opportunity to spend a few additional hours outdoors. As he unzipped a shotgun from its carrying case he explained that, “We’ve got a deer so now we’re after pheasants.”

Page and his two boys began walking through some tall grass. On sloping terrain they soon disappeared from view. The crow of a rooster pheasant could be heard in the distance, a sound that fills every hunter with anticipation and makes each step a little easier.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department issued 67,500 tags for the current deer gun season, an increase of approximately 10,000 from 2018. The season ends Nov. 24.