It is Thursday, Nov. 16, and it got dark out an hour ago. I am going to deer camp in about three hours and will spend much of the next 10 days there and I will love every minute of it. Though I really do not care, I have been having a case of extremely bad luck for about 90 days, and that luck just continued when just before dark I put some rounds through my daughter Selina’s 30:06 BAR and the scope became 100 percent fogged up and now seems to be worthless.
This week’s column is about spending time at camp before the deer gun season and how much I love it there.
Monday, Nov. 13
High 43, low 28
The Red Brush Gang is the name of our camp. We live on public land for a couple of weeks each year and I have been doing this for 46 falls in a row. I have never missed an opening day of the deer-gun season at this place.
The Meadow Valley Wildlife Area and many adjacent public lands are what we call home. There is very little tourism or industry, and the land is quite often saturated with water. I have never seen a no trespassing sign, and did I mention that I love it here?
Forty-six years ago it was my dad, my brothers Tom and Mike and myself in a canvas tent. We were dirt poor and Dad’s car was always worn out, so about 43 years ago I recruited my mechanically inclined buddy Jeff Moll to become a part of the gang.
These days, camp is an 18-foot by 36-foot pole barn that we store in one of my sheds, as it takes down to 6-foot sections.
When I am here alone my mind never quits going back to forever ago. One of my most consistent memories is how I hardly ever kill any deer with a bow and arrow, but do quite well with a rifle.
I love my bow hunts in this true wilderness area. Just today I saw huge male fisher three times. Yesterday I saw a good looking buck with a drop tine, and on this three-day trip, I am putting some serious miles on my hip boots in my never-ending attempt to explore these swamps and forests.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, I called this place “Fall Camp,” and I wrote the only two poems that I have ever written while spending three full months here. One of them went like this: “Eyes that see, ears that hear, feet keep moving, camp is near.” The 10 or so years that I was a squatter, I became very proficient at cross country skiing and ice-skating. My adventures were always after dark and I would go for miles.
Something that could not have happened 30 years ago is that the cross hairs on Selina’s scope were put on a black bear, but my daughter killed that black bear just two short months ago. Black bear returned to this area a little over 20 years ago and I was one of the first people to find that out back in 1995, when one raided my camp while I was here.
One of my plans for this three-day trip was to duck hunt. Last week’s cold temperatures, which caused me very bad luck on the Flambeau Flowage, have frozen all the marshes and the ducks have flown to open water.
On this trip, I have my 18-month-old golden retriever Ruby along. I have had six golden retrievers since 1981. Two of them were born at Fall Camp and one died here.
All in all, I think it is safe to say that I have spent five of my 56 years walking this Earth within 10 miles of my camp, and it could quite easily be eight years. Not a dime has been paid for the mortgage or property tax.
Whenever I think of my funeral, I think of this place. Everyone is welcome, there will be lots of classic rock, a truckload of cold beer and not a bit of negativity.
That, my friends, is my hunting camp. The scope issue will be resolved and bucks will be going down!