Saturday, December 27, 2014
Deer Camp 2014 - the abridged version
There are a combination of things that make for a stress free week, not the least of which is the lack of the human produced soundtrack of traffic, chatter, mechanical and electronic noise, and other never ending noise that seems to follow us around daily. Lack of cell towers and zero bars is a very welcome thing as well and I don't mind driving to a hill 6-7 miles away to get my two bars for some important call I need to make. My low tolerance for electronic noise was highlighted a few years back when I went Psycho on a hapless Rudolph the Red Nosed reindeer pot holder that played that hideous Christmas song from a small chip hidden somewhere in the potholder. A vicious and repeated stabbing with a large chef's knife did what a dozen or so hot summers and freezing winters could not accomplish. Lack of schedule is another huge stress reliever. Go to bed when you want, get up when you want, hunt when you want, read when you want....you get the drift. Also, I don't believe I've ever heard the word 'appopriate' spoken at camp. Nothing is inappropriate and there are few spots on the planet where that it true. I am not sure why but one of the most liberating aspects of camp is walking out and peeing off the deck. Thanks to the invention of the GoGirl this freedom is now a co-ed activity. I haven't figured out why but no one at camp will argue that it isn't one of the ultimate expressions of freedom that we enjoy the third week of November. One of our favorite activities is the free form happy hour that occurs nightly when we all wander back in from the woods. In the opening scene of Lonesome Dove Gus MacRae is sitting on the porch sipping whiskey and waxing eloquent about that misty state between stone sober and drunk. I always like to think that is my goal before starting supper. As the camp cook I am responsible for most of the suppers during the week. Sipping Bushmills most definitely makes the cooking more enjoyable along with the lack of expectation as to when it might be served. Later supper just means one more drink before eating. The menu is rigid; no chicken and dumplings Sunday night or substituting for Tuesday's corned beef and cabbage would result in open revolt. Still, the actual cooking on the 1924 Detroit Jewel propane stove is a relaxing way to start the evening for me. Even wood splitting and water pumping for the camp due to no central heat, electricity, or plumbing is just not a stress producing activity. Actually the only event that cause a bit of a shudder is girding ones loins for the dark o'clock morning trip to the 10F outhouse. It's the only part of the experience I could truly do without, even with the 1980's vintage Playboys that have been there since the outhouse was constructed.
Enough about the relaxation, were any deer shot? This was quite possibly the worst year as far as deer sightings in the past twenty or so. We took two 8 point bucks, both on opening day and that was it. As Pod put it, everyone at camp shot every damn buck they saw! Last years brutal and endless winter killed a lot of fawns and yearlings and this year we did not see a single spiked buck on any of the game cameras. I saw one deer on the woods and one on the road after hunting a minimum of 4 hours per day for the entire season. All the deer spotted on camera or from the stands seemed to be healthy and well fed, likely due to less deer and more food. This winter will tell the tale on how the herd rebounds.
WI DNR wolf damage payment summary, you will find that we taxpayers have paid out almost $2 million bucks since 1985. Bear dogs seem to be the most frequent victims and high buck payoff species, $2,500 a pop, but I guess when you run a pack of canines through another canines territory, especially with pups in the dens, that bad things are gonna happen. You can read about how the system works here, although the article is admittedly not written by a DNR employee. No one at our camp seems to mind a bit of competition from the wolves and seeing the tracks, a rare sighting, and hearing them at night just reminds us that we are just visitors to the wild.
There is no such thing as a bad deer camp, just ones with more or less deer that other years. A couple folks did leave early this year but one had duties at home and the other was in the rut, both acceptable excuses. Once again we came out tanned and rested, a bit of venison in the freezer, and our little wolf pack intact. All said and done not a bad way to end the season.