I’ll always be home to hunt’

By Niki Fritz

Every year since Robby Janasak was 12, he and his dad have headed to Whitewater State Park for the deer hunting opener. Their tradition was to get up before the sun, hit Perkins for a quick breakfast and then drive to camp to wake up their hunting buddies for an early morning hunt.

But for the past two years the Rochester native had to forgo his family tradition in order to finish another American tradition: Marine boot camp and training. In 2006, the 19-year-old enlisted in the Marine Corps and went to boot camp in San Diego, just before the season opener. In 2007, the Marine was training in the desert of California, preparing to deploy to Iraq.

But this year, after a seven-month deployment in Iraq with the 1st Battalion 9th Marines, Janasak made it home just in time to head to Whitewater with his dad, happily trading in his M-16 A4 Service rifle for his Mossburg 500 12-gauge shotgun.


"I just really wanted to hunt this year, just to go out there and chill with dad and get away from everything, you know, the city, the rat race," Janasak says. "I missed being able to go wherever I wanted whenever without 90 pounds of gear."

Of course hunting in the Minnesota woods during winter was an adjustment for the Marine who was used to patrols in the exhausting heat of the Iraqi desert. Janasak says his body adjusted to the sweltering heat of Iraqi days, when the high could reach 160. On the first morning of the hunt at Whitewater it was 18 degrees Farenheight.

Janasak said he wore five layers, including Marine-issued polypro long johns, but he was still cold. However, the Marine chuckled and said, "You really just got numb after a while ... I would take extreme cold over 160 degrees any day. I mean I grew up in it. I know how to layer."

Other than the extreme temperature difference, patrolling in Iraq could be similar to hunting in Minnesota. Janasak says he used his hunting skills every day in Iraq, especially when he was on patrol.

"From hunting, I learned patience, and how to be quiet, how to stand in one place, all the things you do on post. Just stand there and watch," Janasak says.

"Then again I didn’t bring home a buck so maybe I’m not as good as I thought," the Marine added with a grin.

Despite the cold and lack of a buck, Janasak is just happy to be home in time for deer hunting and Thanksgiving. His entire family, including a new niece, Eva, who was born while Janasak was in Iraq, were happy to welcome the Marine home with a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal, including such family classics as wilted lettuce salad, sausage spinach and one of Rob’s favorites, his mom’s stuffing.

It is a Thanksgiving the family is trying to make extra special anticipating Janasak’s absence from next year’s festivities. Janasak will be deploying again in a year, possibly back to Iraq or to Afghanistan for a second tour. But Janasak says next year will be the last hunting season he misses. He says he’ll fly home for the opener no matter where he is after his service is done.


"I’ll always be home to hunt just because it is important. It’s tradition." he said.

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