For those that are from the Midwest I’m sure you have heard the term many times. Every November bosses begin to receive requests for days off work, at the same time hunters are pulling the blaze orange out of the closet and wiping the dust off their rifles. Calls are being made to family and old friends about who’s bringing what and what time they will be arriving. The destination is obvious….. Deer Camp.
For the uncultured, deer camp is the ubiquitous term used throughout the Midwest for cabins, farms, or lake houses where family and friends meet to hunt whitetail deer. Deer camp is less a destination as much it is an event.
I have been an avid hunter my entire life, but went deer hunting for the first time this year. This means I also experienced my first deer camp. I knew little to nothing about deer hunting going into opening weekend and decided to give it a go less than twelve hours before I would have to be up the following morning. I loaded all the blaze orange I had, a hodge-podge of winter gear, and bottle of Jack Daniels into a box and headed east. When I arrived at deer camp, I heaved my box through the front door and was a met with, “You look like you need a drink there, bud”. I poured my first drink of the night and we talked about where we would be hunting the following morning. We each picked our spots, and firearms and the debauchery commenced. As the alcohol was poured, we each shared stories about previous hunts, a told tall tales about the biggest fish we’ve caught, and the ones that got away. The guitar was brought out and comically terrible songs were belted out, likely scaring away any deer that had been on the property. At about 3:00 AM we decided to call it night and go to sleep… in reality we had time for a light drunken nap. Come 5:00 AM alarms went across the house, we tossed on our gear, fried up some eggs and began the trek to our respective spots. The hundred yard walk to my stand seemed like miles in frigid cold. My nostrils flared as the morning breath from the night before hung heavy in my mask. I finally climbed into my tree stand and made it to my seat. I sat in complete silence trying my best to mask the fog coming up out of my mask. As the sun rose shots rang out from all directions, it seemed that every hunter in the county was getting this years venison. I waited all morning, each time I tree moved in the distance I thought it was a trophy buck. By the time mid morning came my toes were frozen solid in my boots, my face was wind burned, and I was in dire need of some electrolytes. We all called it quits, met back at the house and not a one of us had seen a deer. Then came the best part of any hunt...the nap afterward.
About five hours later we woke up ate lunch then prepped to head out for another afternoon hunt. We all swapped spots and waited for that trophy deer. The afternoon hunt went as the morning hunt did. Cold, and not a deer was spotted.
After the afternoon hunt we headed to the local tavern for dinner. Upon entering the bar, it was evident that they hadn’t seen new faces in some time, we were met with stares and “how’d you guys do”. It was also evident that it was deer season in Wisconsin. Every person in the bar was wearing blaze orange or camouflage. Stories of that days hunt were shared across the bar, laughs were had over domestic beer and cheese curds.
I feel that my experience at deer camp is similar to that of many. There are those that are will put in the hours, will get all of the best gear, will get a good nights sleep and will get that trophy buck, then there’s the rest us. Those that like to go to deer camp to share some good laughs, have a few too many drinks, and forget about everything else that’s going on in our lives. We would like to get that trophy buck, of course but that’s not what hunting is really about. Hunting is about the experience and if someone in your group is lucky enough to bag a deer that makes the experience that much better, but isn’t what really matters.
I had a great time on my first deer hunt and it will be one that I will always remember, and it isn’t because I filled my tags. It was because I didn’t bring the right gear, because I had one too many, because of how noisy we were the night before. I will remember the experience and it is something I will always be grateful for.
All in all deer camp is something any hunter should experience especially in the small towns up north. Get your buds together, grab a case of beer and find some land to hunt. You will have some great laughs and an experience I’m sure you will never forget.