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I saw a picture the other day. It made a big impact.

Honestly, however, I don’t know any of the men that were in it. I never will.

Really, it’s not “who” they were that mattered. It’s “what” they were.

You see, the men were standing in the middle of a small rustic kitchen. Judging by the dishes in the sink and the antlers on the wall, it was an old, dusty hunting cabin. The men stood in that cabin, arms across each other’s flannel-clad shoulders, with wide grins lighting their faces.

They were hunters.

I’ve spent many days in a tree stand. At the end of most of those days, I got in my truck and drove home alone. There’s no doubt I enjoyed the time in the woods. But those solo days rarely stand out. If anything, I remember only the deer.

But it’s the days I spent with friends, framing pictures like the one I saw this week, that stand out. Those are the real memories.

A perfect example came last week. My father and I spent a day exploring some of the state’s rugged woodland. As we drove, I shared my memories with him.

So-and-so fell in a creek down in that hollow...

We got lost back that road one time…

I stayed at that cabin with some friends nearly a decade ago....

With each twist in the road or new hilltop on the horizon, the memories came flooding back. It was a reminder of the precious gifts that our sport so generously gives.

On Monday, we have the chance to receive more of those gifts. There’s no doubt the state’s firearms deer season has a holiday feel to it. We wait all year for the big event. We take time off work. And we lose sleep in anticipation of what’s ahead. Heck, even some schools are closed.

That’s why I urge you to treat it like a holiday … spend the day with friends and family. You’ll have far more fun and create much greater memories with some company by your side.

But just as the rules of decorum beg us to keep politics away from the holiday dinner table, keep it out of the deer opener.

Sure, we could debate a potential hunting license increase. We could argue about how the state’s chronic wasting disease issue has been handled. And we could certainly continue the decade-long debate about the size of the state’s deer herd.

But what good would it do us? It only adds tension to what should be a relaxing pastime.

So here’s my challenge to you. With the start of the big season just days away, call a friend or family member and invite him or her to tag along on Monday. Even if it changes your plans and makes your hunt that much harder, do it. I guarantee you’ll create photo-worthy memories.

As we prepare for the biggest day of the hunting season, all too often we concentrate on filling our trucks with gear. Don’t forget the most important part of the sport … the person in the passenger seat.

That’s what Monday is truly all about.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

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