“Don’t drink, smoke or chew . . .”

“Don’t drink, smoke, or chew. Or date girls that do.”

It’s an axiom attributed to King Solomon, if I’m not mistaken, and one that I’ve abided by my whole life. Especially that last line(I’ve been happily married for better than 25 years). But there are exceptions to every rule, right? Here are mine, hypothetically speaking, of course.

If there were nothing but longneck bottles in the bottom of the ice chest, I’d gladly toss back a cold one after an early season doe drag. Drag a doe any distance at all, and you know firsthand just how hard it is to get a grip on those slick ears. Add in triple digit temperatures and maybe a creek crossing or a hand cramp, and it sure wouldn’t take much peer pressure for me to pop a top once I got the old nanny home and hung.

I’d gratefully accept a cigarette to calm my jangled nerves if I ever got a shot at a 200″ whitetail. Especially if the hit was marginal and the blood trail was thin. I’ve been hunting for 35 years now and I still get shook when a spike buck walks by my stand so I can’t imagine what kind of shape I’d be in if a monster non-typical strolled past. I’d cough and choke on that cigarette, I’m sure, but if I had to wait very long to take up the trail with a Boone and Crockett buck on the line, I’d smoke ’em if I had ’em.

If a dip of Copenhagen was what it took to keep me awake and alert on a daylight-to-dark sit in southern Saskatchewan, then go ahead and pass me a pinch. Just so long as that chaw in my cheek didn’t get in the way of me snugging up to the stock of my rifle. When I finally laid my hands on one of those long-tined, chocolate-horned Canadian bruisers, I’d thank the good Lord above for the stain on my smile and the worn out ring in the back pocket of my blue jeans.

And I don’t care how much she drank, smoke, or chewed, if I’d have met a girl whose daddy owned a half section of premium farmland in the heart of big buck country when I was still a single man, I would have learned to love her. If she’d been an only child and stood to inherit her daddy’s place after he passed, I’d have poured her drinks and lighted her smokes and rinsed out her spit cup. And I’d have done it all with a smile on my face.

So there they are, my exceptions to the rule, the caveats that’d cause me to abandon my convictions. As much as I’d hate to open the door to one of those bad habits, to sacrifice my time and my energy and my hard earned money to another addiction, not a single one of them would cost me more than the obsession that currently has me in its clutches – hunting whitetail deer.

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