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Open Season: While meat may be meat, venison is not just venison

Deer carcases hang in the author's garage, awaiting to be butchered after a successful North Dakota deer opener in early November. Tyler Shoberg / West Fargo Pioneer

In my circles, seldom do I get a "hi" this time of year. And normally a talking standard, weather now rarely is a topic-starter - unless it's how the hunting has been affected by it.

No, more often than not, the first words out of someone's mouth are: "Did you get your buck?"

Which, if the answer is yes, the most appropriate follow-up question will be: "Nice one?"

Now, that's pretty relative. To some people, a "nice" buck would be nothing less than 160 inches based on the Boone and Crocket scoring system. For others, it's a point thing, although a nine-pointer - whoops, my bad, almost forgot what state I was in, that should read a 5-by-4 - could have an inside spread well outside its ears, or be no bigger than a grapefruit.

See? Relative.

But if you really want to get a "what in the heck is he talking about look," then just give the answer I did after deer opener weekend.

I shot a spike.

Talk about mixed reactions. I've heard everything from "good work" to "what the (bleep) are you shooting spikes for?!"

To the first response I say, "thanks," and to the second, in as a polite manner as possible, I say "because it tastes good."

And the last time I checked, people don't eat antlers. Well, maybe in Asian cultures, but are they really "eating" it, per se? I thought it was medicinal. Ground up into to tea and whatnot; I suppose then it's more drinking than eating...

But I digress.

Seriously, that's why I shot a spike buck. My wife had an experience I'm sure she wishes she could forget involving the old, sinewy, stinky warhorse that currently hangs on my wall. Because, let's face it, a testosterone-filled rutting buck tastes just a tad bit funky, especially compared to a younger, more tender specimen of the same gender.

Besides, what's the point of shooting a wall-hanger when there is neither room in my budget nor wall to hang it?

(Now that this is in writing, I'm sure my wife will hold me to it.)

But for some reason, the idea of big racks has become so engrained in our hunting society that shooting anything else is unthinkable.

I get the same talk every time I shoot a "lowly" buck:

"Think of how big it would have been in a couple years?"

"If you want to fill the freezer, just shoot does," (which I do, usually two if possible.)

"You're what's wrong with hunters today. You just shoot anything that moves." (No, actually, I shoot anything that I have a tag for that moves, which is entirely different.)

I admit it: I'm the proverbial meat hunter. While bagging a Booner may be the "in" thing to a generation that grew up being spoon-fed the rhetoric spewed from televised outdoors shows, filling my freezer still is priority numero uno.

And while I'd be remiss, if given the opportunity, to pass on a grizzled veteran of the North Dakota woods, complete with jaw-dropping horns, I'm just as content to take a younger, more tender deer that undoubtedly will fare better from field, to freezer, to plate.

Speaking of plate, I'm starving. The next few months are going to make this particular venison addict one happy eater.