Rough sawn, ram shackled, weathered and mossy – the deer camp blends into the forest as naturally as a toadstool in a sugar bush. It’s an enduring connection to wild land. The truest deer camps are simple in spirit and primitive by nature. Poor in comforts, usually just a kitchen some bunks and an outhouse, but richly loved. Deer camps draw like minded souls to the woods again and again every fall.
Some deer camps are made up of serious deer men who hunt with a single-minded purpose. Others are hide-outs for boys that want to cut loose in the style of Da Yoopers song, “The Second Week of Deer Camp.” Most are some where in between with a solid effort put into the hunting and spirited hours of revelry and in the long evenings. Deer camp is pranks, yarns, jokes, cigars, good drinks, good natured insults and outrageous lies with some cards or darts, all fuelled by plenty of good food and a hint of Hoppes’s No. 9 solvent.
Every hunt camp has unique traditions, like a savory meal the night before opening day when men who don’t cook a meal all year are suddenly gourmet chefs on woodstoves. Some camps toast the quarry with fine whiskey. Others cut off the shirttail of a hunter who misses a clear shot at a deer. The easier the shot the higher the shirttail is cut off and displayed on the shirttail board. The hunt is important, but the vital core of a deer camp is the bond that forms in the camp experience. In a good deer camp all members think the same way about hunting and work their plan together. They rejoice in their success, salute the bucks that slipped by, then wait all year to do it again. A profound sense of togetherness is the essential ingredient of deer camp.