By Mark Kenyon

The “Welcome Hunters” Budweiser sign won’t be out for another eight months. Outdoor Life magazine won’t likely have a big buck cover until late summer. Your local Walmart won’t have their hunting section well stocked again until college football is back on TV. And you know why that is? Because all of these things don’t happen until “hunting season.”

That’s when most of the 11 million deer hunters out there come out of the wood work. That’s when most guys and girls start buying hunting gear. That’s when most hunters start thinking about deer again. Except … that’s not true for everyone. There are a select few out there who operate on a slightly different calendar. These are the crazy ones.

There are a few crazy ones out there who finish up one deer hunting season, hang up the bow or gun, and then get right back out there. They pull on their Carharts, strap on snowshoes and brave the arctic tundra. Scouting bedding areas. Still checking trail cameras. Moving stands. Always planning, always preparing.

There are a few crazy ones who spend their days at their desk jobs looking over their shoulder, making sure no one is looking, and then looking back at the aerial maps pulled up on the laptop. Next they’re paging through a topo. Then back to the aerial. Where are those saddles? Is that a likely bedding area? How I could I access this back ridge?

There are a few crazy ones who check the weather forecast every day in February and March, dreaming of a snow melt. Adjusting travel plans. Texting their buddies with predictions on snow level and likelihood of spotting bone. And finally, when the dirt shows itself again, they hit the woods. Binoculars around the neck. An empty backpack hoping to be filled. Plenty of extra TP. And of course, good boots. Searching. Scanning. Hiking and more hiking. All to find a bone, an antler, a shed.

There are a few crazy ones who once spring arrives transform from a postman, or a construction worker, or an accountant – and magically become farmers. Analyzing the soil. Plowing the earth. Spreading the seed. Praying for rain. Marveling at new growth. Dreaming of how they’ll provide for their four legged friends and how they might one day bring one of them back to feed their family.

There are a few crazy ones who in the depths of summer will say no to a day on the boat, or pass up the backyard BBQ or skip out on the weekend at the cottage and instead head out to the Back Forty. Grabbing a backpack, bug spray, a pole saw and a stand. Weathering the 90 degree days, the swarms of mosquitos, the briars drawing blood, the sweat in their eyes. Trimming lanes. Adjusting set-ups. Clearing access paths.

There are a few crazy ones who look forward to a card pull more than Christmas. Dreaming of it all day at work, tapping nervously on the steering wheel on the drive to the property, saying prayers as they approach the camera location, willing it to not be stolen and to still be powered on. Arriving home, the computer is powered on, the SD card is slipped in, the photo slideshow begins. Spirits are raised. Dreams are spawned. Sleepless nights await.

There are a few crazy ones who wake up early or stay out late, just to find a few extra minutes every day with their bow or their gun. Checking the sights, perfecting their form, adjusting their shot sequence. Ensuring that every “t” is crossed, every “i” is dotted. When the moment arrives, many months from now, it will be as natural as breathing. It will be instinct. Nothing left to chance.

There are a few crazy ones who sneak away after dinner in July, grab their binoculars or spotting scope, and jump in the truck. Up country roads, down gravel tracks, back and forth along the two-lane. Checking every field, glassing every opening. Hoping for that patch of orangey brown in the distance, and then confirmation with binoculars, and then those magic words. “Big buck!” Another one for the “list”.

And then, comes hunting season. The masses start shooting, the hordes start scouting, and the crowds start piling into the woods. Each of them hoping for a little luck to come their way.

But the few crazy ones? Not them.

They’re not worried about luck, because they made their own. In February. And March. And April. And May. And June, July, August and September. Working. Planning. Dreaming. Plotting. Sweating. Swearing. Bleeding.

The few crazy ones did their time. They put in the work. They made the effort. They never stopped learning. They didn’t get lazy. They wouldn’t take no for an answer.

It’s not easy. It’s not always fun. It’s not for everyone.

But for me and a few more deer crazy folks out there, it’s the only way. It’s the right way. It’s a beautiful way.

So here’s to those foolish few. Here’s to having deer on the brain from Valentine’s Day clear through the Fourth of July and on to Veteran’s. Here’s to dreaming big, working hard and getting after it. Here’s to the crazy ones.

Here’s to you.