Friday, December 13, 2013

Deer Camp 2013 - Ten Days in Hell

 Every year when I head for what I refer to as my week in the 19th century at the deer camp, people marvel that we can survive without electricity, plumbing, or central heat.  These are just the minor items of depravation however, there are a number of other things that we do without for this hellish week on the cusp of winter. 

At one point we did have a generator but the smell and the noise just didn't seem worth it.  Since we have no hair dryers, Fry Daddys, or small appliances of any sort it's just not much of an issue.  We can still make toast without a toaster and excellent waffles with the cast iron waffle maker.  It operates on the 1924 Detroit Jewel propane stove, and propane Humphrey lights provide indoor light as well.  Plumbing consists of the hand pump outside the camp and the outhouse. While the seat is very, very cold on a 10F morning, careful timing can result in a prewarmed seat.  A sauna takes care of the other aspect of no plumbing, a shower.  Finally the vintage pot belly wood stove takes care of the central heat issue.  We just throw another log in if its cools down and damp the stove down and open a window if it's too hot.  No, these basics are not the problem, it's those other subtle reminders of civilization that we really miss.

I personally find electronic background noise to be very soothing.  A TV or radio on in the background, beeps and alerts from electronic devices, the whirring of various motors and drives firing up. Soothing for sure, but we are deprived of such enjoyment due to that pesky electricity being gone.  We do have a battery powered Montgomery Wards Airline model radio, dual cassettes and all, that was a circa 1977 wedding gift and we will have the oldies station on from time to time so I guess that offsets the lack of electronic buzz. The one reliable source of electronic noise was eliminated when I stabbed Rudolph during a psychotic episode, but that's already been discussed on these pages.  We have discovered that if one climbs up into the Wounded Knee blind that two bars of Verizon service can be achieved.  This has been used for birthday calls to the VOR as well as emergency calls to Woody to bring another buck tag in particularly good years.  Having to work to make a call, hiking a half mile and climbing a tree stand, puts a whole new light on prioritizing which calls are important and which are not. 

Thanksgiving dinner is another depravation.  How can you make a large turkey with gravy, stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, squash, and three desserts in such a primitive and tiny space?  Every year we manage to battle adversity and get it handled with the Weber grill, the above mentioned Detroit Jewel, and some creative juggling.  This year we managed to pull off dinner for seven of us with a four course wine flight to accompany the above courses, in the face of this adversity. 

The other thing that we go without for the week of deer camp is angst and expectations.  The only thing scheduled permanently is happy hour.  Stroll in after hunting, eject shells, place gun in rack, and pour beverage of choice.  There is total freedom on whether to go out and hunt or drink coffee, read a book, BS with the crew, or hit the sack at 8pm or midnight.  There is some whining about pumping water, filling the wood box, and stoking the sauna stove, but minor bitching is part of camp as well as the smart assed and predictable comebacks to said whining.  After going without schedules and expectations, coming back to the world, especially that first morning at work, is unusually invigorating.

The other thing we go without is decorum. Casual visitors might find that people walking around, drinking beer, and cooking in their underwear is a bit disconcerting.  It is said that I do my best cooking in my underwear and this is yet another cross that we bear during deer camp.
The ultimate lack of expectations is sitting up in the blind.  Thought uninterrupted by background noise or other people is a powerful thing.  Being deprived of  the distractions can steer your mind to all sorts of interesting spots and time tends to slow to  it's slowest passage of the year, especially when the temperature is in single digits and a northwest wind is coming off Gitchee Gumee.  Oh for the warm office, with the comforting glow of the computer screen, emails and co-workers stimulating your mind, and the prospect of a productive meeting looming in exactly 18 minutes.  Being deprived of that is certainly one of the most disturbing things about those ten days at camp.

This year three 8 pt bucks were shot, one each by Pod, GurneyGranny, and the KingOfIronwoodIsland.  The very late spring had reduced the herd in our area and even though we had doe permits aplenty, it was decided to pass on the smaller deer this fall. Every year I hear morons bitching about the wolves but our DNR has effectively reduced the population with their ill conceived, non science based hunting seaon so I find it difficult to figure out how there were more deer and more wolves last year and fewer of both this year.  Maybe the fact that we had snow and tip ups out on a foot of ice on opening fishing in May had something to do with deer mortality?  Nah, sorry I blew up there.  It is the latest that deer season can be in Wisconsin and it was cold and especially windy for most of the week. My guess is that part ot the 26% reduction in the deer kill in our area is not just the late spring but the attractiveness of the bar stool blind in the rough weather.  Poor weather, fewer deer, and the depravation described above made it a particularly hellish year at camp.  And we would do it all over next week if we could.


Nan said...

After suffering like that for ten days, I'm amazed you have the strength to stumble back to civilization.

Speaking of wolves, I finally saw evidence on our place: a humongous pile of scat with fur in it in the driveway and some of the largest canine paw prints I have ever seen. I knew from the way the deer now behave there were predators around -- they used to graze under the apple trees like a herd of cows, now they're always a little skittish and never linger long -- but this is the first time I've seen sign close to the house. One of the more interesting aspects of this year's deer season was the majority of the photos of successful hunters in the local papers were of young women. The youngest was some 10 year old girl who shot a 12-pointer the first time she went hunting. Unreal.

DaveO said...

I'm still a bit weak but expect to make it. We noticed that deer just don't look up as often with wolves in the area. I also thought, according to some of the amateur wildlife biologists at the bar, that all the deer were eaten. I learn something every day. We have two women who are active and successful hunters at our camp....including this year, damnit!