On Friday, North Dakota's favorite unofficial holiday begins.
Firearm deer opener, with its traditional noon start, is unarguably the state's most cherished pastimes. For a couple of days, small towns will grind to a halt, farmers will take a break from their tractors, and rural schools will be canceled so students and teacher alike can don their blaze orange garb.
Even the gaudy pheasant, which has its own steadfast following, is not held to as high a regard as white-tail.
So driven are hunters to bag a deer, in fact, that common sense tends to dwindle as days pass without filling a tag.
I've always joked that the collective IQ of hunters drops a few points when a set of antlers pops up. It seems that, all too often, the knowledge of years in the field goes right out the window when it matters most.
It's often been said, and it bears repeating, to be safe. While a 160-class buck might get you into the Boone and Crocket record books, a name on a page somewhere is not worth the risk of ending someone's life because of poor judgment.
Remember what you learned in firearm safety training. Practice muzzle control and always be sure of your target and, especially, what lies beyond. With North Dakota's renowned flatness, bullets can travel for miles unimpeded.
On that note, good luck. I hope your season results in a freezer full of venison and a large taxidermy bill.