It’s not always easy letting go of the way things have always been - or the traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation – and then embracing the way things are going to be.

Change is uncomfortable and different isn’t always better.

And losing folks along the way – those who contributed so much to creating those memories and traditions – makes the change even more challenging.

Still, sometimes the random nature of life can lead to a whole new perspective on things and open doors that one never expected to open.

That’s where I’m at this weekend: Embarking on a whole new twist on a lifetime of hunting tradition and enjoying my first opening weekend at the deer shack.

I’ve been waiting a long time to say those words: Deer shack.

For more than 30 years deer hunting for me and my crew has consisted of waking up way too early, driving for a half an hour, parking on someone else’s land, and hunting in stands that while we claimed were ours, actually didn’t belong to us at all.

The infamous birch tree, sight of so many big deer down stories never really belonged to me or my dad or my uncle or anyone else in the party – it sits on a piece of public land that technically belongs to all of us.

This year the birch stand sits empty on the opener for the first time in four decades. I’m halfway across the Iron Range on a different piece of God’s country, sitting in a stand I built, in a spot I’ve been studying and scouting for almost a year.

I’m hoping the lessons learned on our old stomping grounds will transfer to our new stomping grounds and success will follow but if it doesn’t, I won’t lose any sleep. In fact, I’ll rest well with my head on a pillow at – you guessed it – the deer shack.

Still, I can’t help but feel a little sad about not sitting in that old stand attached to a tree that’s not a birch but holds that name anyway. I know at some point a nice buck is going to cross over that shooting lane to the north, either on the trail of a doe in heat or spooked up by the guys hunting to the south.

In my mind’s eye I can see it stepping into the open and pausing just for a moment on its way to the swamp – and safety – to the north, head turning toward the old birch stand for a moment before turning back. Then it will take two steps and disappear into the thick stuff.

For that big boy life will go on. But that’s how life works – it just keeps going on no matter what we do or don’t do or what changes throw a fork in the road.

All we can do is adapt and hope better days are ahead.

I think there will be.

The DNR reminds hunters that they are required to register every deer you harvest before processing, before antlers are removed and within 48 hours after taking the animal.

There are three ways to register harvested deer in Minnesota. They are:

Telephone: Dial 1-888-706-6367 to get into the system. Enter the Harvest Registration Number that appears on the license. It’s a 9-digit number that links back to the person and license type. This is the large and bold number printed on your deer license and is NOT your MDNR number. Enter the 3-digit area where the deer was killed. The system will only accept valid deer permit areas or special hunt numbers. Enter the date the deer was killed. Enter the type of deer – adult male, adult female, fawn male, fawn female. The system will then give you a confirmation number that must be written on the license in the appropriate area.

Internet: Go togov/gameregistration to register your deer.

Walk-in big game registration stations: This process is unchanged from previous years.The person whose tag is on the deer must personally present the deer at an official registration station and receive a big game possession tag. The tag must be attached to the hind leg, ear, or antler where the site tag was attached. You can find a complete list of all stations at any DNR wildlife office or on the DNR website.

The site tagging regulations have not changed. Refer to the regulations book for site tagging information.

When the system asks for deer type, please use the following information:

Adult male – male deer with antlers at least 3” long.

Fawn male – this is a 6-month-old male deer, more commonly known as a “button buck” and weigh less than 75 pounds dressed.

Adult female – this is an adult doe at least 18 months old. Typically, they have a longer nose and larger body (over 75 pounds dressed weight) than younger antlerless deer.

Fawn female - this is a 6-month-old female deer. They typically have a short nose and weigh less than 75 pounds dressed.

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