Deer camp has come in many forms for me over the years. Some years it’s taking long trips away from home to explore new areas or getting together with large groups of people for a day full of drives or it is simply staying home and hunting a small piece of property with my brother. Over the years, the one thing that has stayed the same is that it always involves family and friends.
At one point in my life, I can remember having a group of about ten guys that would get together every year to chase whitetails. Due to many reasons that group has dropped down to only about two original members. Most people don’t associate big game hunting with a social affair. They relate the social aspect more to small game pursuits.
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From sleeping in and having breakfast and making a game plan on how to move late-season deer into shootable positions to taking the deer back to the garage and throwing a party of sorts while we skinned and cut up deer that our families will enjoy for months while making a variety of recipes in their kitchens. Or on some days the meat didn’t last that long as my grandfather would often fire up a griddle on a wood stove and cook the steaks as soon as we cut them off the bone.
This year was an odd year for me as far as deer hunting. No big trips planned and no large groups of hunters as in years past. This year on opening day I found myself having my father meeting me at my house and us loading up long before daylight and driving to a piece of State Land that we found last year with the help of online scouting applications.
You would’ve thought it was daylight as the moon was as bright as the lights at a Friday night football game. We arrived early and walked into our spots without the aid of any flashlights and we settled for an all-day sit.
Ten minutes after legal shooting light I could hear the familiar crunch of footsteps on frosted leaves. My heart raced as I knew it was too loud to be a squirrel. As the footsteps got louder and louder I knew it would soon enter the field. A large-bodied deer appeared into the field and was walking slowly. I could see it was a doe I raised my shotgun as I knew I did not have much time before the deer would be out of sight. I squeezed around off and at the report of the shotgun, I lost sight of the deer in recoil. As my weapon settled, I could see the hind end of the deer going back to where it had come.
I waited about 10 minutes to go look for blood. All the while my father was texting wondering what happened.
“I’ve got blood,” I replied. Luckily there was fresh snow and I began my track. Even with the fresh snow, it was a slightly tricky track as it appeared there was another set of deer tracks from one I had not seen. I thought I had lost blood and was about to call for assistance with the track when I looked around a tree and there lay one of the biggest does I had ever seen.
I texted my father, “deer down,” and he began making his way to me. As my father has gotten up in age, it is me who gets him outside nowadays and he seemed just as excited as me. As this deer came out so early I hadn’t had a chance to even drink my hot chocolate yet and so before we gutted the deer we both had a warm glass of cocoa and took in the beautiful November morning.
As we finished, I asked my dad what he wanted to do. He said he was in the mood for breakfast and so to the local diner we went.
Upon going there, I was gladdened to see it packed with men and women in all different shades of camouflage and different kit. They were all sitting reminiscing about the deer they got and the ones that got away.
Whether it’s the ancients reminiscing of the hunt with cave paintings or men and women at a modern dinner table, it seems we all like sharing these experiences. For me, I like to take off alone looking for the next grouse cover in far-flung places of the United States but as far as deer hunting, I’d much rather go out and with family and friends and laugh and tell stories that may or may not be true at deer camp, wherever that may be.