Let’s face it – when you think of popular hobbies among Jews, hunting just isn’t one of them. The Jews I know like more mundane activities that don’t require outhouses, guns, and waterproof underwear. Roughing it is staying in a bed and breakfast that only has basic cable. Hunting is so far off the Jewish spectrum that it doesn’t even register on my mother’s list of things that Jews don’t do (football, motorcycles, beer).
I do know one Jew who not only enjoys hunting, but is so into it, his suburban garage looks like a Cabela’s Express. My mother-in-law’s cousin (I’ll call him LS) is an avid outdoorsman – from hunting to sailing to fishing – and until I moved to the Twin Cities, his adventures seemed very out of reach. Living in an apartment in Queens, the only thing I was hunting for was bargains.
Sometime last year, LS and I were talking at a family get together and the topic of hunting up. Hunting would be a great item to cross off my imaginary list, “How to become a real Minnesotan.” Some other items I have already crossed off include:
-attend a meat raffle
-go up North
-buy a roof rake
-order a pop instead of a soda
We never got our acts together, but this year a date was put on the calendar weeks ahead of time. Most everyone I told about my impending hunting trip thought I was either crazy or full of it. Another cousin (SH) decided to join us – obviously wanting to be a witness to whatever might happen. It still didn’t ease my mother’s concerns that my hunting buddies were an attorney and a veterinarian. Among the three of us, I was the least professional and the least educated.
The “lodge” is essentially a one-room hunting cabin in the middle of nowhere. It was surprisingly cozy and the wood-burning stove did a fantastic job of keeping us warm. There was so much obvious history in the place that it felt like hallowed ground. When LS told us about the 200 year old chair, I knew I was in the right place. I also didn’t dare sit in the chair. With my luck, I would be the fat ass who broke the 200 year old chair.
The things I was told to worry about (the lack of heat, the early morning wake-up call) didn’t faze me at all. I certainly didn’t have all of the right gear though – and any future outdoorsy activities will certainly require some trips to Cabela’s or Gander Mountain. I did have my Minnesota coat and I’m sure glad I did! For those unfamiliar, the Minnesota coat was purchased at least 10 years ago when it became clear that normal coats just don’t work when the wind chill hits 30 below. I wore it 5 days a year – when I came here in December for Jewish Christmas. The other 360 days, it hung in a closet.
With some items borrowed and some improvised, we headed out in the early morning pre-sunrise hours. After a false start and an indoor coffee break, we headed back out to get some ducks. The combination of poor weather conditions and my complete lack of experience with a gun in a boat on a lake did not provide us with any quackers. I did get a few shots off though – and it was a real thrill when they got close.
The rest of the day was spent hanging out at the “lodge” and driving into “town.” That’s right, I put town in parenthesis. It was interesting to see some bits and pieces of rural Minnesota. Not sure it would have been so quiet if they knew that three Jews were driving through town. Felt a little like Mississippi Burning to me. Back at the “lodge,” we prepared a deliciously rustic dinner, downed a few beers (sorry again Mom), and enjoyed each other’s company. It would be remiss of me to not mention the incredible skies at night over Heron Lake. Without city lights or a single cloud, it was simply remarkable.
The next morning was equally beautiful – so not quite the conditions necessary for prime duck hunting. But we still headed out and I still missed every duck that flew overhead. SH claims that I nicked one, but he might have been trying to make me feel better about my ineptitude with a gun. The dog was a little pissed at me because he didn’t get a chance to show me his skills in the water. And LS was a little upset because he wanted to watch the city kid clean a duck.
Back at home in the burbs, I took a long (and overdue) shower while recapping my weekend. I did come home empty-handed, but as LS said more than once, the kill is secondary. It’s about being outdoors and spending time with good people. I couldn’t agree more.
In honor of one of my favorite Jewish actors of all time, Walter Matthau, I just added Grumpy Old Men to my Netflix queue. Wabasha here I come!