Whether in a cabin, tent with a wood burning stove, small tent, car or just sleeping by the fire - it’s called deer camp and holds something special for those lucky enough to be there. Year after year we pack our bags, grab the gear and make way toward that special spot in the woods. Rejoining family and friends who at the exact same place generations before celebrated this magical opening day tradition.
Deer camp might not be for everyone, but those that go think everyone should be there. Some years we get our deer, and some years we don’t. But I hesitate to say that some years we’re not lucky. The best memories don’t always include filled tags.
Our deer camp has evolved over the years, but to this day it remains crudely sophisticated. We pitch a tent to hold our gear and sleep alongside the fire. Burn holes dot the sleeping bags from nights too close to pine wood ambers. When weather permits the bags are rolled out under the stars. But if rain or snow is in the forecast we construct a tarp canopy and floor. A vast improvement from pulling a tarp over our sleeping bags in the middle of the night during a pouring rain.
Camp food is always delicious, but never better than this year. We’ve come a long way from wrapping things in tinfoil and throwing them in the coals to cook. This summer I found a campfire grill at Gustafson’s in Brevort. A local man makes this gem, big enough to fit a mess of ribs and adjustable enough to cook them to perfection.
But the biggest breakthrough must be the fire. For decades it was nothing more than a simple woods fire. And then one year my brother Joe had an idea of putting a large stump behind the fire while we slept on the opposite side, creating a heat shield to deflect heat back on us throughout the night.
The following year we improved it to build a small wall of large wet logs. Each year we added to the logs until we built what we considered a sloppy looking log cabin. This year the heat shield was elevated to a whole new level as we stacked large rocks to construct a real work of art. At least in our eyes.
I’ve hunted there with well over twenty different friends, uncles, siblings, dads and grandparents. Many experienced their first deer hunt ever at our deer camp. Even more experienced the thrill of getting their first deer. And all cherish the memories. This year I introduced the next generation, camping with my boys the weekend before the opener to get things ready. Deer camp is dirty, functional, fun and above all - a absolute breath of fresh air.