Sunday, November 15, 2009
The Culture of Deer Camp 101
Last Thursday was a bit out of the ordinary at the Reefer Creek deer camp. The day started out the same, with people in their stands early and heading back to camp for the customary 9am breakfast, but at about 9:30 or so, 19 visitors showed up for a tour. Sixteen students and three profs from Northland College in Ashland, WI came out to learn, question, and soak up the unique deer camp ambiance.
The group and the course were unique as well. The course was part the Superior Connections curriculum and deals with a wide range of issues in the Lake Superior watershed. Thursdays field trip was to designed to give students an idea of life at a typical northern Wisconsin/Minnesota/Michigan deer camp and the issues involved, including logging, the forest and deer habitat, DNR policies, and predators like the timber wolf. The students were from all over the place, Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, and many from Wisconsin. Some had never even thought much about hunting and others had been hunting since they were little kids. There were a couple of vegetarians and some definite urbanites. In other words, an excellent mix. One of the more interesting parts was trying to see the camp through the eyes of people who hadn't been going there for 27 years.
The event began with a tour of the camp and its unique decor. I would guess its rare to find a Somoza for Presidente' election poster, a lithograph of Abraham Lincoln, former Chicago mayor Harold Washington's anti rat flyer, and a 'young Republican's in Lust' poster in the same camp but we're eclectic if nothing else. There are also mounts and horns all over the place which is as is should be at a proper camp. We then hiked around the property and examined some deer sign like scrapes and rubs, plentiful bear crap (it's bed time boys and girls, you can hibernate now!), a select timber cut, some other flora and fauna, and Reefer Creek itself. There were a few wet feet crossing the Reefer and a couple of folks decided against that particular form of Russian Roulette for the feet and headed back to camp with the GurneyGranny. We have a couple of abandoned cars from the 1940's and a few students found those to be more interesting than some of the tree fungus and understory plants, but that's to be expected. One of the cars belonged to the Tichener brothers, who logged the area when they returned from WW II. One of our neighbors was a boy in the area and told us the story. We found a horse corral and a cooking area but no camp. When we asked where they lived, our neighbor looked surprised. "Why, they lived in the car". I guess folks were a bit tougher back then.
It seemed like the group had a good time and maybe learned a thing or two. There was some (justified) trepidation about using the outhouse and the pump handle was tried a few times. I forgot about mentioning the Pumping World Record. Usually that gets us a few buckets of water pumped by strong youth trying to beat it but I felt I should be kind. The best question was asked of the GurneyGranny. " As the only woman here, do you have to do all the cooking?" Since I do most of the cooking she could truthfully answer no. The best statement heard was in reference to the Tichener's logging camp, "Its really cool how you guys preserved this spot so people could check it out". That's sloth son, the trait that 'preserves' lots of what eventually becomes historical sites.
It was a fine event and we hope that it becomes an annual. I hope everyone learned just a little bit, a near certaintly given the breadth of topics covered. For any of the students with more anthropomorphic tendencies, no deer were harmed for the rest of the weekend. We're looking forward to next years event!