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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

After a brief introduction, Shannon Hunt, and his son, Logan, ushered me into the “man cave” in their garage.

I traveled to the Hunt home south of Harrisburg the Saturday after Thanksgiving to interview them about the piebald buck Logan harvested during the first deer firearm season. For the record, a piebald deer has a genetic condition that results in patches of white hair.

Man-cave was something of an understatement.

There was a huge crappie hanging on the wall, as well as a couple of bass. And, of course, there was the obligatory deer as well. There a dozen or so rods and reels outside the door, a couple hunting bows and a gun rack.

So, what’s not to like?

The room got more comfortable as we starting talking about the unusual deer.

Shannon began the conversation, noting that Logan had fallen ill the night before and announced his intention to sleep in and forego the morning hunt. However, as Shannon and Chris Hyers were eating breakfast the next morning, they spotted a large buck in the field.

They awoke Logan with the news, which was enough to change his mind about the hunt.

At this point, Logan picked up the narrative. He talked about seeing the buck in the field and the battle plan the trio put together. He talked about “army crawling” along a fence line with such detail that I began feeling sympathy pains in my elbows and knees.

When the story hit a critical juncture, Shannon again picked up the narrative. He talked about the deer’s position in the field, the angle with which the deer approached them as they hid in ambush. The attention to detail made it absolutely clear why they are successful hunters. Nothing escapes their notice.

Logan seamlessly picked up the story when describing the shot and the subsequent tracking of the deer. In addition to being good hunters, they were also adept at spinning a story. Although I was clearly aware of the outcome, their story of tracking the deer through a thick stand of pines held my rapt attention.

In fact, the conversation continued long after there was enough information on tape to recount the story for the paper. There is something innately comforting, bordering on soothing, about sitting around and sharing stories about a memorable hunt or fishing expedition.

In short order, the conversation ranged from duck hunting local strip cuts, to fly fishing in Yosemite National Park, to catfishing the Ohio River. While driving home it was obvious the three of us could have sat there and swapped stories for several hours.

That is the beauty of outdoor experiences.

The three of us had never met prior to that morning. Yet, we found common ground in the appreciation, and awe, of the natural world.

It’s an ageless bonding at a basic level. It’s the kind of storytelling I imagine led to paintings on cave walls. And, I don’t mean man-cave walls.

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LES WINKELER is the outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.

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