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I will admit to you that I do spend some time on Facebook. I find it interesting and in fact belong to several groups including Hunting Africa, Lever Action Rifles, Hardcore Waterfowl, Krueger National Park just to name a few. I also have a lot of friends on Facebook and it is fun to keep up with what they are doing. A few weeks ago a friend posted that for perhaps the first time they we not that excited about the upcoming deer season, for a variety of reasons. It was kind of a sad post, but I knew where they were coming from. If simply going out and taking a deer was all there was to it, I too might secretly be a little melancholy about deer hunting. Being a history buff, I love the old time black and white photos of old time hunting camps with men and women wearing bold woolen plaid pants, as well as wool or canvas coats and of course those lever action rifles. I’m not going to lie to you, I also enjoy just seeing the deer, because there are a lot more deer near home than there was when I was a kid, but it still comes back to the deer camp and that’s where I still get my excitement. Deer camps have changed over the years. The old photos show that hunters slept in canvas wall tents. Today you’re more than likely to see campers. I also have friends who have built additions onto their machine sheds, which are their camps. Our home away from home is a small 12 X12 cabin, but it has electricity.
Things have also changed since I was in high school when it impossible to sleep the night before opening day. My Winchester 94 would be oiled and leaning in a corner. My jeans would be lying across the end of the bed already heavy with the weight of ammo in their pockets. My flannel shirt would also be lying there and on the floor would be a pair of leather Wolverine boots and a pair of heavy socks. I would lay in my bed and think about the possibilities of what the next day would bring. This was a different time as I might go all season and not get a good look at a deer. There would be a lot of drives made and if I were lucky I would see a deer’s tail ahead of me as it bounded ahead making its escape. Like I say that was a different time, as now as I lay in bed I hope that the younger members of our group can have success, as I know that they are laying in the bunks thinking the same things I would think 50 years ago.
Perhaps what I enjoy most about deer camps is just talking and reminiscing. If I had my way cell phones would be banned from deer camp with only ten minutes allowed to check up on whatever it is that you need to find out to make your life complete. After that they would be put away, but I’m as guilty as the next as I like to see how other hunting friends are doing. But back before we had those stupid things, we talked and you could actually find out what your kids were up to and the joys and experiences they had going on. You would also hear stories of deer taken and missed and funny stories and serious stories about people my daughter and grandson were never blessed by meeting and now they are gone and the memory of them drifts away like the smoke from the fire and only reoccurs when someone takes the time to study their family history.
I have friends that have deer camps and get togethers the weekend of and into the week of deer season, and I enjoy hearing about their successes and how their camps go. Often they get non hunters visiting camp just to share in the comradery. I know that it may mean nothing to you, but here is how our deer camp goes. First of all, it is a tradition that only high water can stop. I will be in to camp first and I have even gone down to the cabin before work to turn on the heat. By getting there first, I can unpack and get my gear and my vehicle out of the way for the next group. I have electricity, so I’ll hook up a small TV and VCR for background noise and then start supper. Meals are very simple at least in our camp and all recipes must either be able to be prepared in one skillet or one pot. I have a two burner hot plate, but I really only use one unless it’s to boil water to do dishes , although we do not use hard plates in dishes, so the water is actually only for the cooking utensils and the pot or skillet.
The time before the rest of the family gets there is normally a time when I get a little melancholy as I think back on past hunts and family now gone. I know it’s just sand and a small farm, but it is home just as Terra was for Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With The Wind. Before I get too down, the family arrives and things get crazy with unpacking. We eat around a card table and share stories and laugh and basically become a family again. When it gets late enough we get ready to go to bed and all the excitement makes it difficult for my grandson to sleep. His parents will be in the top bunk and he and I will share the bottom bunk. We like to play this game where he gives me a couple animals, a couple names and maybe even a location and I make up stories (imagine that). After that, I’ll sing a few of my Dad’s favorite songs and McCabe will be fast asleep.
Opening day comes early, but it doesn’t take long to get ready as I get dressed and walk out on the deck of the cabin and I’m hunting. My son-in-law hunts with my brother perhaps a half a mile from me and my daughter and McCabe join me on the deck after they wake up and get dressed. Opening day is spent on the stand with breaks for meals, but even then you’re still hunting, so you live in hunter orange all weekend. My favorite time is when my brother Kent comes down from his cabin to share supper with us and add some new stories and harass McCabe. The small cabin really gets filled when the Mrs. brings down a Sunday dinner following church.
The saddest moment occurs when we break camp on Sunday evening and we know it maybe another year until we actually spend an entire weekend together. But you have to enjoy those moments when you have them as they are too few and far between. You noticed I spoke very little about hunting. Success is great when it occurs, but to be honest like most deer camps I see success as the ice cream on an apple pie. The pie is still great whether you have ice cream or not!