1 | Deer Camp Starts with Hard Work
Deer camp work begins in the searing heat of mid-July. Fields overgrown with a summer’s worth of briars and saplings are mowed, cleared and tilled.
2 | Tilling the Ground
Tractors overheat, implements break and blisters are formed. It seems like everything smells of diesel fuel, grease and sweat. And it’s all for nothing, if the rain doesn’t come.
3 | Food Plots
But by the end of September, the fields have a different look. The rains do come, and in their wake, a shade of light green pokes through the soil. Before long, deer and turkey tracks appear.
4 | Home Away From Home
The old cabin is run-down, but solid. Built over time, primarily by scrap lumber hauled in with pickup trucks, this is home away from home in the fall. Carpenter bees have bored years’ worth of holes under the porch awning, but it shows no signs of going anywhere.
5 | First Buck
This is a deer camp, not an antler camp. Sure, big ones are cool, but first bucks are even better.
6 | Skinning a Buck
Skills are learned at this camp. Cut here. The ball and socket is there. That’s a great roast. Don’t get any damn hair on the meat!
7 | Size Doesn't Matter
No matter the size, antlers go on the wall out here. There’s a rack or two in every room. Some big, some small; some 30 years old. They all tell a story.
8 | Venison Steaks
This is the true reward from a weekend at deer camp. Venison steaks, finely trimmed and chilling on ice. All but half a dozen of them will go in the freezer. As for the half dozen? They’ll be taking a sizzling bath in Lake Crisco tonight.
9 | Public Land Buck
Lots of deer camps depend on nearby public land. This one’s no exception. With a small piece of private ground that borders thousands of acres of hard-hunted state forest, much of our hunting is done in the big timber. Occasionally, one of us will see a decent buck.
10 | Be Proud
Big-woods public hunting might be the most difficult style of whitetail hunting in the country. Kill a legal buck here and you can be proud of it.
11 | Dirty Work
Our hands stay dirty in this camp. Gutting, dragging, skinning, butchering—and there’s no running water.
12 | Washing Up
Fortunately, there is a creek where we can wash up. Since we’ve cleaned the beavers out, it runs pretty clean.
13 | What it's All About
This buck was the trophy of the season. No, he’s not a Booner. But Dad said he got excited when this buck chased a doe past his stand. We figure that’s what deer hunting is all about.
14 | Blood Trail
We’ve followed a bunch of blood trails out here. Some have been better than others. Not all of them have had happy endings.
15 | Happy Endings
Fortunately, this blood trail ended the way I wanted it to. One last, big doe for the freezer.
16 | End of Deer Season
It seems there’s a moment every season when you look up and think, “Gee, all the leaves have fallen.” It’s anything but a gradual process, but it still seems to sneak up on you. When you see that, you know what’s coming next—the end of another deer season. No reason to get upset … it’ll be July again before you know it.
17 | Down Time
It could be argued that there's a lot of down time at deer camp. But truth be told, there's always something going on. If you're sitting on the front porch with a cup of coffee, you might as well be sharpening knives.