By Steve Raymond
News Report Staff
Janice and Sara Dust were sitting in the deer stand when a buck approached.
“Mom had never got a buck before, so I told her to go ahead and shoot it,” Sara recalled.
But Janice insisted her daughter take the shot.
The two kept talking and then “boom.”
“I kept waiting on the two of them to stop arguing,” said Alex Koester, Janice’s nephew. “I didn’t want the deer to run off, so I just shot it.”
That’s just a small sampling of the stories heard when family and friends reminisce about past deer hunting experiences.
And new memories are about to be made real soon.
As the sun peaks over the horizon Friday morning, thousands of men, women – and, yes, even high school students – will take off walking into the woods.
They’ll be headed for their favorite spot or a well-positioned tree stand.
It might be raining or snowing. Temperatures might be cold or warmer than normal. The ground might be slippery or even muddy. It won’t matter. Nothing will keep them away.
They’ll be easy to spot, though. They’ll be wearing orange vests and carrying shotguns.
And they all have the same goal.
Return with a deer.
That’s right. Sunrise Friday marks the beginning of shotgun deer season. The first season will be from Friday through sunset Sunday (Nov. 17-19), while the second season is scheduled from Thursday, Nov. 30 through Sunday, Dec. 3.
These are sacred days for many, many hunters. These dates are crossed out on a calendar. Nothing else is planned.
Just ask the Dust and Koester families.
Going deer hunting is a tradition for them, like it is for so many in this area and around the state. They hunt, sleep and eat and then do it all over again the next day.
And they don’t even have to go home when the day is through. They can return to the family deer cabin for a shower, and the opportunity to tell a few tales about their day and, hopefully, not have to talk about the one “that got away.”
Whether its bacon, eggs and biscuits and gravy for breakfast or chili served later in the day, there is always an ample supply of good food. And in the evening, they play cards or dice; or a group might go cabin hopping to compare stories with other hunters. There are numerous deer cabins in the area.
For 20 years, the Dusts and Koesters have been using their deer cabin, located about 10 miles northeast of Teutopolis. Dick and Janice Dust, plus her brothers Dean, Dave and Gary Koester, and good friend Dennis Ruholl, built the cabin in 1997.
Prior to that, an old barn on the property was used as the deer cabin. But it was much different.
“It got so cold, ice wouldn’t even melt inside that barn,” Dean recalled.
There are many more “comforts of home” with the deer cabin. The 24-foot x 32-foot structure has a kitchen, restroom, utility room and large open area that can easily seat between 20 and 25 people. It’s not uncommon for 15-16 people to stay overnight, with at least 12 of them sleeping in the loft.
There’s a propane furnace to keep the cabin warm and a big ceiling fan to cool things off if necessary. There are also four hookups outside if people choose to bring a camper.
“This all got started back in the 1980s,” Gary said. “Dean got the first deer on this ground in 1983.”
“I was only 16 years old and I was pretty excited,” Dean admitted.
“That really got the interest up,” Dick added. “There are a lot of deer around here.”
Virtually everyone in each of the families goes deer hunting. And almost all of them have stories to tell. This year during Youth Shotgun Season (Oct. 9-11), 16-year-old Macy Koester and 10-year-old Seth Koester got their first deer, while 14-year-old Sam Koester got his first buck.
Between 25 and 30 family members will be at the cabin during deer season and generally about 15 of them go hunting. The age of the hunters ranges from 10 to 64 years old.
Most arrive on Thursday night and don’t go home until sometime Sunday afternoon.
Early Friday morning, most will head out before daylight to get positioned in their tree stands.
But not all.
“Dick and I like to go out in the daylight,” Janice admitted.
“I have to have plenty of coffee first,” Dick added.
Several have their own tree stands, but the “Santa Claus House” is regarded as the “cream of the crop.”
“It’s really like a small cabin in a tree,” Dave, the proud owner of the 12 x 12 stand, noted. “It’s insulated and even has a heater. It’s big enough for six chairs. We can play Pitch if the hunting gets slow. It’s especially nice when it’s cold and rainy.”
The family prefers the weather to change. They don’t mind at all if a cold front moves in.
“That’s when the deer move around,” Gary pointed out.
All the hunters purchase two deer permits each year, “but we never fill all of them,” Dick noted. “I think our best year was a dozen deer. Last year, we ended up with eight.”
They also ended up with 78 pounds of deer sausage or jerky, most of which was shared between the family members.
The cabin has multiple uses during the year. Some like to camp there during the summer. It’s also used for coon hunting, turkey hunting, horse riding, 4-wheel riding and even a fishing tournament.
“We like to keep the cabin for just the family during hunting season,” Janice said. “But friends show up to visit all the time.”
“We like spending time with family,” said Sara.
“This allows us to get away from home for a while,” Macy added.
“I like being outdoors,” Janice noted.
“Some of us even take time off work,” Dave pointed out. “That always makes our wives happy.”