Deer Camp

Posted on September 15, 2015

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No where on earth is fire so warm
nor coffee so infernal,
nor whiskers so stiff, jokes so rich,
nor hope blooming so eternal.
A man can live for a solid week
In the same old underbritches
And walk like a man and spit when he wants
And scratch himself where he itches.

I tell you, boys, there’s no place else
Where I’d rather be, come fall,
Where I eat like a bear and sing like a wolf
And feel like I’m bull-pine tall.
In that raunchy cabin out in the bush
In the land of the raven and loon,
With a tracking snow lying new to the ground
At the end of the Rutting Moon.

Palace in the Popple – John Madson

Hunting Partners - 6

A current of mounting electricity flows throughout hamlets, villages, towns, and yes, even cities as thousands of anxious deer hunters prepare for their autumn pilgrimage. For any other vacation they may forget to pack, leave the destination details to the Mrs. or be sluggish to get going. But come November and the annual excursion to deer camp, no stone is left unturned.

Many a deer-hunting widow has wondered what could possibly be the allure of a run down old shanty back in the bush. If they could only know the respite it brings from civilization and the deliverance it offers from the everyday rituals we perform.

Whether your autumn abode is a tent, trailer, bus or tar paper shack, it’s deer camp and the sights and sounds bring back the simple, penetrating sensations that have too long been absent from our lives. No phones, TV or infringements from the outside are found to tarnish the experience. Listening to the radio on Sunday night is deemed permissible for entertainment purposes, and entertaining it is. Watching Pop do the two-step out in the camp yard decked out in his all-togethers is a sight to behold.

 

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The complexities of life disappear like the thin line of wood smoke drifting up from the old potbelly, replaced now by camaraderie, primitive existence and an atmosphere of excitement. The greatest resolve comes with the first frosty morning when the pump is primed and you have to go out and sit on the old gal (our terminology for the outside facilities).

Oh, the tales that are spun, relived and grow in proportion each time they’re told; you never tire of hearing them. Slumber is never deeper, despite the raucous notes heard from Pop’s continual snoring, and the silence from about is deafening. The only sirens you’ll hear out in November’s solitude is the symphonic howl of a distant coyote and the boom box crescendo that comes in the form of a drumming partridge beating his chest.

Hardships and chores seem miniscule to the members of the camp’s fraternity. Hauling water, cooking, doing dishes are of little consequence once under the deer camp roof. When back home, taking out the trash after constant badgering and drying the dishes become menial tasks to be executed by someone else.

The solitude that only deer camp can bring divorces us temporarily from our responsibilities and awakens the sleeping senses that have lain dormant while engulfed in civilization and all its trappings. The mind begins to think clearer, and slowly you start to reflect and reaffirm who and what you’ve become. The quietness allows one to meditate without interruption or interference.

 

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Deer historian Rob Wegner described this vividly when he wrote,

When pursuing whitetails we divert and distract ourselves from industrial madness and its laborious occupations. When we leave the city of Degeneration and go the woods, it is astounding how mutually and quickly we free ourselves from worry, tension and temper. A fresh and fragrant atmosphere once again circulates through our blood as we become submerged in nature. It’s almost like returning to the old homeland.

It matters not what your situation or occupation is when you arrive in deer camp; you’re a deer hunter – nothing more, nothing less, all pretentiousness is left back from where you came. For us, pursuing big whitetails is what we do best and come November the craft we’ve perfected is plied at the shrine of the big woods wilderness.

Each camp dotting the landscape is as varied as the individuals that inhabit them, but several traits remain constant no matter what clan you may hunt with. There is usually no shortage of humor and practical jokes.

 

The Deer Hunters

Poor old Tony was generally the recipient of our well-contrived impish pranks. Pop could always keep a straight face, unlike myself, who would usually be found on the floor laughing uncontrollably as our friend searched for some item that had been hidden on him. Who says you need visual imagery to be amused? The laughter that is heard resonating from our camp would warm the heart of the soberest of souls.

Based upon certain characteristics, nicknames are issued to respective members of the party. These handles usually stick and the recipient is forever labeled by the respective rank and file. Names such as: Gubby, the Waap, Silverback, Chester the deer molester, all titles befitting the wearer of such. Take the deer molester for example; when a man dressing off a buck has more deer hair on him than the animal he’s working on has, we figure he has more than molested that poor dead creature.

Deer camp is a social event that draws family and friends together each fall with renewed enthusiasm. I’d be willing to bet a good portion of next week’s salary this gathering of the fraternal red coats would rival any stay at a condo in the Caribbean. It would be down right difficult to find a substitute for the joys and memories built and established inside the hunter’s bivouac.

 

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With each member comes the imaginative expectation of taking the finest of all bucks. Whether or not this becomes a reality is really inconsequential, to have lived another year and been granted the opportunity to once again test one’s wits against a formidable foe is satisfaction in itself. When success does come, all share in it with exuberance. There’s never a greater feeling of relief than when the first buck is hung, no matter who brings it to bag. It serves to rally the troops as they take on a renewed sense of encouragement.

Regardless if you’ve dragged tirelessly on a multi-tined old monarch or been given the slip after endless miles, it’s always a comfort to return at day’s end to the grandest hotel in the North Country. A warm meal is in preparation and the company of good men awaits your arrival with the news of the day afield.

Be your comrades bankers, bakers or candlestick makers, they all come with a common goal: to hunt and pursue the grandest game animal of all with whatever abilities they possess and do so under whatever conditions befall them. Many of my most cherished relationships have resulted from my association with the whitetail, and our shared passion became the thread that drew us together and formed the lasting bond.

 

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It matters little what your deer shack is comprised of or what plot of ground it sits upon; it’s the people that make up the group that’s important. Some of your members have sadly passed on with only their memory now following you, while others are newcomers starting their careers with eager anticipation, drinking in the favorable elixir that only deer camp can bring. It’s amazing how, as the years accumulate, that one season runs into another, leaving you feeling as if you’ve never left.

This fall rendezvous, which has endured for generations, represents much more than a physical building. It’s more of an emotional reunion with long time associates, the wilderness and the whitetail.

Unlatching the portal to your shack in the woods serves notice to the resident rodents that they have been temporarily evicted. Lighting the mantels reveals the delicate cobwebs decorating the interior; the crackle of well-seasoned maple from the wood-stove emits an aroma of warmth chasing away the dampness. With an inward smile of contentment you’re now ready for the long awaited deer season to begin.

 

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Idealistically, the snow is now sifting down upon the roof and covering the forest floor, providing tracking conditions for the morning. The rutting moon hangs above the shack, veiled by tempestuous skies, yet, still partially showing in eventide. The enchantment of our forest dwelling lives on. It’s a magical place – a place I’d not want to fore-go.

 

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© 2015 R.G. Bernier Nature Photography – All rights reserved.

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Posted in: Whitetail Deer