Hello, friends. If your idea of a good time is something other than getting up hours before the sun rises, eating some oatmeal, bundling up in cold-weather gear and sitting quietly in the woods for several hours – we are not that dissimilar. For some reason, I find myself committing to three weekends of hunting in November each year. Perhaps it’s the sweet payoff of knowing that if I’m lucky, one of those weekends will be spent cramming raw meat into sausage casings on my kitchen table.

In case you couldn’t gather from my opening thought, I do not particularly care for hunting. I don’t have the best attention span (at least not without a controller in my hand), I don’t like being cold, I don’t enjoy cleaning deer and my vegetarian wife and I don’t cook a lot of meat at home. Throw in the fatigue of not sleeping well with a toddler daughter and you have all the trappings of a humdinger of a month.

So why do I do it? For Deer Camp.

Deer Camp can mean a lot of different things. For my family, it means me, my dad, my brother and Casey the Chiro staying up crazy late for dudes who are going to get up around 5 a.m. And perhaps an alcoholic beverage or 10. And lots of food, and pinochle.

If you are unfamiliar with pinochle, it’s a four-player card game. You play with two teams of two. Each player takes turns bidding to state how many points they are going to score that hand, and the highest bid gets to declare what suit is trump. The winning bidder’s team gets to pass four cards between the partners, so the winning bidder can make the strongest hand possible. Both teams meld combinations of cards for points, and then the cards are played with each ace, ten and king counting as a point. If you don’t make the the amount you bid, you go backwards by that many. It’s a Sedlacek family tradition, and we play for hours.

Eventually we go to bed, and after we drag our butts out to the stand in the morning it’s usually pleasant enough. As long as it not’s too cold and/or snowy. We have traditionally had a lot of luck on the opening morning. I think my brother went eight straight years getting a deer by 8:30 a.m. This year I saw and downed the first deer, a four point buck, at about 7 a.m. My dad followed with his own six-pointer around 7:15 a.m. My brother was shut out.

With two dead deer, it was time to argue about how to process them. My dad and my brother enjoy cutting up deer. For me it is a long and uninteresting process that could better be dedicated to napping, drinking and playing cards. Ultimately, we convinced my dad to pay someone to process the deer, and it was back to camp to toast our good fortunes. The first weekend of hunting was a resounding success.

For the second weekend of hunting, I accompany my dad to Deer Camp outside of Fourtown, Minnesota. His brothers hunt with The Captain, a high school friend of my dad and uncle. The Captain is an outstanding cook, with classics like “Salute to Pork” night and three-meat “Chuck McMuffins.” Most of the action at Deer Camp happens in the Boom Boom Room, Captain’s garage. It’s got four bunk beds, a sofa, a number of comfy chairs, a full bar and a dining room table. Before my uncle and cousin got old, they used to bring a five-gallon container of premixed Long Island Iced Teas.

I bring a gun to Deer Camp, but I haven’t taken it out of the pickup in years. My routine has been pretty consistent. We show up Friday night, watch a bunch of TV, have some drinks and talk smart. I sleep until breakfast is ready late Saturday morning and tidy up the Boom Boom. Once the chores are done, I head out to an open bed in the Boom Boom and nap and play handheld video games.

Most of the crew is invested in NDSU and watch the Bison games Saturday afternoon, that’s prime gaming time for me.  Last year, I took out a big chunk of Octopath Traveler, and this year I played about four hours of Final Fantasy XII. Usually the Switch battery dies about the time hors d’oeuvres are ready. Saturday night, if anyone has the sack to face us, my dad and I will put on a clinic in pinochle. Sunday morning, we eat breakfast and head back. The second weekend of deer camp was also a resounding success.

I keep the third weekend of hunting open to return to Mora. I pray for good fortune the first weekend so I don’t have to sit in the stand again. With two deer down, I was off the hook this year. Instead of going up to Mora for the hunt, my dad came down to Roseville to start turning our bounty of venison into sausage.

Making sausage isn’t my favorite task either. But at least it goes pretty quickly – we put in three hours on Saturday morning, and I kicked everyone out after lunch.

Hunting I could take or leave, but I wouldn’t miss this time with my dad or brother for anything in the world.

What’s New at OiO?

Episode 18 of Outside is Overrated – 2019 Holiday Buying Guide

In the latest edition of the podcast, Tom and Joey discuss a variety of gift ideas for the nerd in your life. Get your popcorn ready!

Disney+ Is Here!

Disney launched its new streaming service this month. We haven’t subscribed yet, but you can check out a thorough review on TechRadar. I’m as excited to see The Mandalorian as the next Star Wars fan but there are two parts of the launch that surprised me. First, is the dripping content. I thought that Netflix and other services had established a standard for dropping seasons at once. In an age of binge-watching, I have little desire to wait a week in between episodes.

Secondly, I’m surprised that there isn’t more content available at launch. Newsweek lays out the release schedule (including a Moon Knight show that will probably be awful), and I am surprised that four new Marvel shows aren’t coming until 2020 and 2021.

It’s an interesting price point at $6.99 a month. Is Disney+ a true competitor to Netflix and Hulu, or is it positioned to be cheap enough for the average family to add it to their list of subscription services?

Black Monday

Black Monday is a Showtime original series that follows a Wall Street Firm leading up to the market crash. It was show of choice at Deer Camp this year.

Don Cheadle plays the coked-out head of an investment firm. For most of the season he and his top lieutenant are working to manipulate an employee in order to swindle a family-run fashion company. There are a number of memorable characters and moments. It’s the only Showtime original show I’ve caught, and the first season was really good.

Final Fantasy XII – The Most fun Game in the Series

The twelfth entry in the outstanding series was the most fun game to date. Originally released on the PlayStation 2, it opens with a huge dose of story and a couple long dungeons that limit your ability to traverse the world. The story was a bit much for me, there are two warring kingdoms and your homeland gets caught in the middle of an endless conflict. Warrior princess, fallen knight, evil overlords, blah blah blah.

Outside of Balthier, my favorite character in all of Final Fantasy, I thought the rest of the cast was largely forgettable. While the story and the characters failed to grab me, I thought the gameplay innovations made this an incredible game:

  • Experience points and leveling were back in this entry, and they introduced a license system that gives you freedom to shape your character. Basically, defeating enemies gives you license points that you spend to unlock magic, abilities, and weapon/armor proficiency. If you want to unlock more powerful magic, you have to grind through enemies and unlock lower-tier abilities on the way.
  • The removal of random battles. Instead of invisible enemies initiating fights as you traverse the world, you can see all the enemies on the map. You choose whether to engage or avoid at your leisure.
  • The Gambit system, where you can automate actions for your party. You can set your healer to automatically cast Cure when a party member reaches 80 percent of their total health. Or program your mage to cast Fire when you encounter an enemy that is weak to the element.
  • Big, open world. I would be very interested to see how this game would work if it was created for current technology. There are some huge areas, but they are broken up into smaller instances.

I got about 20 hours into XII. I loved my time with the game, and I can’t wait to get back to it after December. If you were to play one Final Fantasy for the first time, this one would be my recommendation.

So there you have it – November is in the books. Until next month, stay inside kids!