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ROGER WILTZ: Let's start a Camo Hat Society

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opinion Mitchell, 57301

Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Sorry, ladies. Today's column is mostly for guys.

I think the women, or at least the ones around Wagner, have a pretty good thing going. They call it the Red Hat Society. Unlike Lions or Rotary with their international service objectives, the purpose of Red Hat Society, as I see it, is to simply have fun. The structure seems loose, dues are minimal and a monthly meeting where the women rotate organizing something to do is the extent of it. Perhaps it appeals to retired women as they have more time, but I believe there are young red-hatters, too.

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Could something similar be developed for us men? In looking to the Red Hat Society for a basic format, let me throw out a few ideas. For starters, we could call ourselves the Camo Hat Society although farmer hats might appeal to a broader range of clientele. We would go with monthly meetings, but I don't know what day would work best. Conflicts would occur, but attendance wouldn't be a big deal.

If we actually threw something along these lines together, someone would have to host that first meeting. I'd be willing to volunteer. In order to work around chores, we would meet at my house around 10 a.m. Then we would car pool and head west to Bonesteel. Here we would view an old friend's African game animals and memorabilia. I believe he has an actual Main Street museum and arguably South Dakota's best trophy collection. We go way back, and hopefully he would go along with it.

After lunch in Bonesteel, we would head west to Burke. You know where this is going. In Burke we head north out of town to Pete's Taxidermy. This place isn't just a shop or business -- it is a destination. While Pete and his staff do birds, fish and animal heads, they go way beyond with room-sized exhibits that depict deer in the cattails, ducks landing overhead, and fish under the ice. Taxidermy-wise, it's the whole nine yards. And yes, we get home in time for chores after stopping at Pickstown for ice cream.

Well, that's only one meeting. Where do we go from there? The next time my turn came up, we would do an evening meeting starting with the grill in my backyard. It would include a great salad, baked potatoes with real butter and sour cream, choice elk steaks and the highly coveted Spotted Cow beer that I bring back from a local Wisconsin brewery. At dusk we move into the house.

Like the Red Hat women, I would have to do some minimal decorating in the house. In taking a hint from the ladies, the bathroom is very important. I'd go with a camouflage toilet seat and curtains, with deer antlers on the wall for towel racks. I'd set a doe-in-heat candle on the wash basin for just the right aroma. Our living room with the grossly oversized red stag shoulder mount takes care of the rest of the house.

Entertainment would be fairly easy. I'm in the process of putting most of my international hunts on DVDs, making a presentation as easy as turning on the TV. No more screens, projectors, etc. I'd be very careful not to over-do the pictures. Many of the guys would be in those photos, making it especially interesting to them. Realistically, we men might run out of things to do in little time, whereas the women appear to be good at making something out of nothing. However, it's something to think about.

* * * * * * * * * *

Last fall, I spent three or four days a week in an archery blind waiting for a good buck to come within range. I always saw deer, and I observed a lot of interesting behavior. One afternoon in particular stands out.

Over a lifetime of deer hunting, I've tried antler rattling on occasion. This basically involves banging a set of antlers together. Deer think there is a fight in progress, and like kids on the school play ground, they come running to see the action. I believe that the technique was developed in Texas, and many hunters feel that the technique works better in southern climes than it does in the north. I've had little luck with rattling during our rifle seasons, making me believe that it might work better just before the rut.

Prior to last year's early West-River rifle season the first weekend of November, I was in a friend's Bon Homme County ground blind. It was a bluebird day with no wind, and just being out there made my effort worthwhile. While sitting on my little stool, I saw a set of shed antlers on the ground against the wall of the tent. I guessed my friend had found them while preparing his blind. They were impressive, and I thought about the bucks that shed them being out there right now.

I opened all the blind windows and began banging them together vigorously. I then paused for a minute and began all over again. Holy cow! I had three bucks in front of me -- one to the right and two together straight out to the north. The two were barely out of my range, and the one to my right was in some brush making the shot marginal at best. At that moment, I became a believer.

I've collected enough sheds over the years to keep a pair at every place I hunt next fall. Speaking of sheds, at Madison, Wis., antique shops, a small shed brings $11.95. Think that's crazy? A Madison florist sells tumble weeds for $30 apiece! There's big money in your fence line right now!

I just got back from a Canadian fishing trip, and I'll tell you about it next week.

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