DUXBY, Minn. — Hello, ladies and gentledudes! It's time for another fun-filled installment of "Friday 5"!
This week, I have taken Friday off to celebrate a recognized holiday in my family: the Minnesota deer hunting rifle opener.
Ohh yes, a glorious weekend of freezing cold mornings, sleepless nights and a-whole-lotta Vatnsdals. It's the most magical season of the year. Food, fun and family. What could be better?
Except, I don't actually hunt. I am such a poor shot that if I were to even see a deer, I'd miss it anyways. I don't need that kind of ridicule by my family — even if it is just in good fun.
I am what I would like to be referred to as a spotter. I keep my eyes peeled for the big one from the moment it hits 30 minutes before sunrise until it's time to go back to the shack for breakfast. Which is odd, because I usually can't see deer when I am driving.
It's a tough world being the only female in a camp of more than 20 men. But nevertheless, from Friday to Sunday the first week of each November, we gather to recount old stories, catch up on each other's lives and enjoy one another's company.
While I recognize that not everyone enjoys hunting, for many, it's not even about shooting a gun. It's about family, tradition and togetherness.
Here are five things that make deer season great, for the non-hunting greats.
Bring your appetite
One of the best things about hunting camp is the food.
Each year, Papa Cory and I work to figure out what the first meal of the weekend will be. We've done everything from deer camp chili and hotdishes to meatballs, mashed potatoes and gravy. Rumor has it this year we will be digging into some barbecue ribs, and I can hardly contain my excitement.
The Friday morning before the opener, whoever is able gets up and heads about 10 miles west for a potato dumpling breakfast. After breakfast, we head over to the local grocery store and stock up for the weekend. Breakfast supplies, snack foods and stuff for big dinners are loaded into our carts and hauled to the truck to be put away at camp.
Of course, leftover Halloween candy is toted along to the stands to give the hunters a tasty treat while waiting to get back to the multitudes of homemade and store-bought delicacies that make their appearance during this time of year. Think: pickled herring and asparagus, jalapeno jelly, cream cheese, crackers, jerky... The list goes on and on.
Leggings, wool socks, long-sleeved shirts, sweatshirts, jeans and boots make up the wardrobe of the weekend. Layers are key, as taking naps all day can make one quite toasty.
But the real reason for all that warmth is because early November in northern Minnesota is cold. Like, really cold. Like, a high of 25 this Saturday cold. And that's not even considering the 6 a.m. wake-up call that we endure to get to the stand before the sun comes up.
The heat given off by the fireplace and baseboard heaters in the morning is nice, but as soon as you step outside, there's little to protect your still-sleepy body from the icy frigidness that is a Minnesota winter morning besides your layers, encased in a shell of blaze orange.
Take a nap
Ahh, napping. One of my three favorite things to do in the world (No. 2 is sleeping). At deer camp, naps are plentiful.
After late nights visiting and playing cards (and let's be real, enjoying an adult beverage or six) and early mornings getting ready to sit in the stand, there's nothing better than settling in for a two- or three-hour snooze while public television plays in the background.
That's the dream, but truly, napping can happen anywhere. I've even napped in the deer stand while waiting for the sun to come up. It snowed. I woke up with snow all over me. Not a real pleasant way to wake up, but I'm no quitter when it comes to naps.
Grab a book
There are only so many naps one can take before bedsores and joint stiffness starts to set in.
Thankfully, books are a thing.
Cracking open a good read while sitting cozily in a recliner or on the couch is close to one of the most peaceful activities I can think of. It's usually quiet, there's a crackling fire and it's easy to get lost in the world between those dead slabs of tree. Even when the deer are slow to show up, books are a great way to pass the time.
Just keep your eyes peeled — you don't want to miss the deer.
This weekend I will be reading "Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love" by Jonathan Van Ness. It's been on my list since it was announced and I am so excited to finally have a chance to read it.
Enjoy every second of it
Through all the laughs and stories, one thing is certain: the friendships and bonds that are created during weekends like this are some of the strongest.
Roaring fires in the fireplace while an extremely loud but somehow still on-key rendition of "O Canada" brings us all together — hunters and non-hunters alike. Card games, great meals, stories and family are most important, regardless of whether or not we get that trophy buck, because you never know when it will be the last time.
Friday 5 is a weekly column featuring quick tips, tricks, ideas and more — all in bunches of five. Readers can reach Forum reporter Emma Vatnsdal at 701-241-5517.