Ode to Alabama Deer Camp
Deer season is winding down with a little less than two weeks left. My wife is expecting our fourth child in about a month and I am thrilled about this However, the rut is in full swing in Alabama and my hunting camp has become a pretty special place to me.
This was going to be the year I pulled back from this damned obsession and developed healthier habits that are easier on wives and pocketbooks. Some things simply are not meant to be.
Season starts with a flicker of hope. Most folks prefer to put out a whole bunch of trail cameras. I am not knocking this, but I appreciate a good surprise and will gladly shoot the first three year old buck I see.
I am still working up to selectively watching bucks. I do enjoy watching two year olds; in the house I grew up in that was sacrilege.
Truthfully, the sport has evolved over the past 25 years. There is a lot of cool gear and gadgets now, but undoubtedly trophy hunting has become the Great White Whale. This is good and bad. The obvious good is the part where you grow amazing bucks that are the envy of Jackie Bushman.
The bad? It is belittling to every other hunter out there who is just happy to see a buck. It somehow implies that a "real hunter" will wait until a buck is at least four years old and I spent too many years of my youth hunting my guts out for a buck when you could not harvest a doe legally.
This character is burned into me. I am working on stepping up to that level, but at the end of the day, don't we all hunt deer to shoot them? If that's the case, then why does it matter at which age you place one in the freezer?
All this being said, I know guys who kill more trophy deer than chronic wasting disease who are as humble as they come. Those dudes are examples of how to encourage your fellow man.
As the season progresses, there is a certain tension that builds. It is unique to deer hunters. It sort of says, "You are my friend, but I hate you" when your buddy fills his tag before you. We may not like to admit this, but absolutely it is there.
December usually is somewhat of a lull after a couple of deer get picked off early season, but not always. Once we all survive the holidays and make it back to camp, we begin the countdown for the rut. It happens later, in January. Usually, we act like it happens early in January and start hunting hard too early. I still do not know why we do this, but we do, steady as the tide.
I have been trying to get my eight year old son Shep a buck this year. So far it is not coming together. I feel bad for him. Not because he has not scored, but because I can see it in his eyes. He already is cursed with this affliction. I love spending time afield with my son; Lord willing, we will hunt for many years to come.
The characters at deer camp are almost as entertaining as the hunting. The following are inspired by deer camps over the years; I bet you have a few in yours.
The control freak: usually a president, this is the guy who makes it happen. Think twice before you hate on him, because if you remove him, chaos will follow.
The back stander: This guy is a pro at watching what a select few hunters do and then copying them. It is painful to watch.
The suck-up: Frankly, I do not understand why this jackass followed us from work to the woods, but here he is on our day off. Try not to be mean.
Captain low bar: Insert my picture and you have it. All I want is a club legal buck. I like grass patches, clear cuts and any other club stand that does not involve too much work. You can spot me pretty easily.
Brotherhood of the Bone Collector: These are the folks who spend more time at camp than you. They are putting in work in their off time, but just for hunting. The Brotherhood tends to be cliquish and will stop mid-conversation if an outsider walks up, lest they hear where that secret tree is located.
Mike: You all may not know Mike, but this guy is the deer killingest sumbitch I have ever met in my entire life. He gets a category all his own. Your club probably has its own Mike.
The good old boys: These guys probably are responsible for making the camp go, even if they don't seek the credit. They can be found any given weekend, in the offseason, on a tractor doing work. They are the heart and soul of camp, yet seek no recognition.
When it is all said and done, everybody gets along at deer camp. It is a magical place where from November until early February grown men can escape reality. It is like a real life Narnia. You go through the Wardrobe and all of a sudden three months have passed and you have a beard. How did this happen?
I truly believe deer hunting is one of the greatest anti-depressants our Creator provided for us. We live in a time where fewer and fewer people hunt and that is just sad to me. There is so much to gain from deer camp: friends and fellowship, food, thrills and good clean fun all around.
February 11 will be here very soon and it will all come crashing down, the reality that is life outside of hunting season. The nice thing about being in the South is you don't feel that way for very long. Turkey season opens March 15th!
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