Wondering what deer camp is all about. You maybe have heard some things that sounds crazy and wonderful, maybe even worrisome. But now you really want to know the truth!
It doesn’t matter if you are a deer hunter or not; but to not experience what it means to go away and be at ‘deer camp’ means you are seriously missing out on one of life’s more memorable moments, and your life probably sucks because of it… Just saying.
Yes, deer camp is that awesome!
To try and explain what a true deer camp is and the experience of staying at one, deer camp must first be defined by certain criteria. So let’s get started. Below are eleven things that makes a deer camp… well, deer camp.
What Is Deer Camp All About?
- A deer camp should not be your year round home. It should be located elsewhere and somewhat remote. By remote I mean it should not have a paved road that leads to it. The road of a true deer camp should really be dirt or gravel and be only moderately maintained to limit ‘ordinary traffic’. By ‘ordinary traffic’ I mean city folk who might go out for a sight-seeing drive.
- Deer camp can be a very comfortable and well maintained lodge or cabin, but in order to be a real deer camp it should be lacking in certain conveniences. For example, a deer camp can be a place where a person can go a few days without taking a bath, but still have meager means available to wash up for the times when you and your deer camp buddies can’t stand the smell of each other. Or it would be a place with solar or generator powered electricity. It could have power lines and be on grid, but then it should be lacking something else, like good insulation. If your deer camp has all the fancies such as propane heat and grid line electricity but keeps a working outhouse in the back… then that is okay; congratulations you got a deer camp!
- Cars don’t belong at deer camp, at least not in my opinion. Trucks, SUVs, and the like are welcome sights at deer camp. Something about seeing a four door sedan at deer camp makes me sad.
- A deer camp shouldn’t be new. Anything newly built that is less than ten years old cannot be considered a deer camp, unless you have five or less members of the camp that have combined years of hunting experience greater than 126.339 years (yes, exactly that amount or greater). Newness has a way of lacking tradition. So tradition needs to be instilled by a few people who have ‘been there and done that‘.
- Deer camp must have at least one person who keeps telling the same story or stories year after year that people love to hear no matter what! That’s considered a tradition! Deer camp should be full of traditions, and they can be anything from playing penny poker or cribbage, to sharing a grand feast the first night of the deer opener, or anything and everything in between. I don’t care how old your deer camp has been in existence, if you don’t have traditions you don’t have jack-shit!
- A deer camp should have a deer pole. What’s a deer pole? That’s where the hunters who have ethically hunted/harvested a deer hang it up for all to see and admire, or in some instances make fun of. This is where many great pictures are taken during deer camp with members of the camp standing proudly, or sometimes humbly, next to or before their tagged deer.
- A deer camp should be located in a spot that you can walk out the front door and start hunting immediately, i.e. surrounded by woods. Some deer camps have rules that do not allow for hunting while on deer camp property or within sight of the camp. That’s okay, as all deer camps are bound to have rules that need to be followed. But as long as you can take a short walk from the camp and start hunting within minutes – that’s damned important.
- A deer camp does not have to be near a body of water such as a creek, river, or lake, but it should have such a body of water within two miles. Why? Because there needs to always be a hunter in the deer camp that has a traditional day opener hunting spot that is ‘by the creek,’ or ‘by the lake’, or ‘a hop and a skip from the river’. Swamps also qualify, as do valleys, ridge-lines, hills, mountains, fields, and the often times described “over there” accompanied with a vague gesture. Look, the important thing here is that somebody at the camp hunts a known geographical location that everybody is familiar with and can nod their heads at when it’s mentioned.
- A deer camp should have a ‘buck plate’ or ‘buck pool’, which is a standing bet year after year on who shoots the biggest buck. Everybody who hunts and who wants to participate in the contest kicks in a determined amount of cash to sign up for the contest the night before the deer opener. Then whoever tags the biggest buck wins the cash jackpot and bragging rights.
- Deer camps must be filled with people telling stories of hunting, fishing, and general outdoor activities. Such yarns must not have another witness from the camp who can attest to the accuracy of the tale. It is best if the stories are only told accurately the first year, then each year after become less accurate with increasing amounts of bull-shit.
- A proper deer camp would not be a deer camp without at least one person who snores like a pregnant grizzly bear at night. Also, a proper deer camp should have somebody who has wretched smelling farts. Most deer camps have more than a few people who fit that last category, but typically those deer camps have an all you can eat chili feast the night before deer opener.
What Is Deer Camp, Really…?
By now you should be starting to put together a mental picture of what a dear camp has in regards to what it may have and not have, and things such as traditions and camp heritage. But to make the deer camp complete you need to fill it with friends, family, or a combination of both. You can’t be a loner and go hunting at your shack in the woods to deer hunt all by your little-lonesome and call it deer camp. You can call that being like Ted Kaczynski, but you can’t call that deer camp. Deer camp needs to have people in it, period!
Remnar Soady, a character from a play “Escanaba in da Moonlight“, which later became the greatest deer camp movie ever made, summed up the opening weekend at deer camp like this: “It’s like Christmas, but with guns.” Well said Remnar, and it’s pretty much what you expect a guy named Remnar to say.
For me, the Bauer Family Deer Camp is best described as being able to spend time with family and friends. It’s not all about the hunt, though a large part of it is that as well – it’s also about the time spent in the outdoors with family. Our camp is a gathering spot for hunters and non hunters to share their stories and display their success.
It’s also about good people, good food, a right of passage for the younger generation, respecting your elders, and respecting your prey. It’s about preparation and anticipation. It’s about not having to shave for a week. It’s about having an occasional cold beer or sip of sweet-sap whiskey after a long day in the woods. It’s about helping out a friend or family member with a deer drag. It’s about celebrating and reflecting on life’s little victories and about life itself.
What is deer camp… I guess I can sum up deer camp like this: Life is always good at deer camp.