The saturated blue night sky dilates rapidly to chambray like an old TV coming to life. After color, we get sound. The first shot from the woods detonates from a distance, sounding like the low beat of a pillow-stuffed bass drum; the next two, as sharp as rim shots, crack off a lot closer to the house. A bolt of excitement rolls through me, equal parts greed and reverence, two feelings that merge during our annual deer hunting weekend as naturally as sour mix and whiskey, and I think, I hope that was one of ours.

Our band of deer campers, as I call our hunting party, have been settled in their cold, open tree stands for over an hour, so it’s possible. I’ve been awake much longer, having risen before dawn on the most ceremonious of days, the deer hunting firearm-season opener, to send them off with a proper breakfast. I don’t get up to cook this early unless it’s a holiday, which is telling; after seven ritualistic seasons that’s pretty much what this weekend has become. In true holiday fashion, the morning meal contains enough riches to raise the body temperature by a few degrees: a couple of skeins of smoked sausage that I pan-steam until the bottoms darken and the juices evaporate

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