Photo by John Hafner.

Walt Spomer wasn’t a hunter. Still, his was a bloody business. Town butcher. He converted farmer’s steers and hogs into steaks and bacon, speaking calmly to each animal as he coaxed it to its demise. “Poor Bossy,” he’d coo, keeping the animal relaxed until the .22 cracked and the animal fell. Then he began expertly flensing the hide, instructing his two small boys: “Keep the blade against the hide and sweep it.”

In deer season, Dad took over where hunters left off, salvaging venison from poorly shot, often dirty carcasses that had been dragged until the hair wore off. He whistled while he worked and took pride in doing it right. Animals died so that we might live. Show respect and make the best of them.

So I do, keeping my knives sharp, eviscerating precisely, taking pride in removing the skin in one piece with no holes, keeping the carcass clean all the way to the kitchen counter. There, with memories of Dad lightening the load, I trim, cut, and grind, putting up venison that keeps family and Dad’s legacy alive. And I whistle while I work.

For more opening day traditions, click here.