For 49 falls, I have been a part of The Red Brush Gang, which is a deer camp that operates on public land out of the Meadow Valley Wildlife Area in northern Juneau County. This week’s column field work ended two hours ago and began in 1971.
Wednesday, Nov. 11
High 47, low 27
Last weekend most of our gang, which was 19 people, showed up at camp for our annual camp building workday and in the end party. Three hours after dark, an 18x36 foot pole shed had been reconstructed, 20 bunk beds were put together, two wood stoves were installed, and a lot of firewood was cut and split.
This gang consisting of about seven fathers and 17 kids, ranging from ages 16-32, holds this annual camp work weekend each fall and all these kids got to start coming as soon as they were done filling their diapers. It is a big day because at the end of it we sleep in the shack we hauled and built.
For this week’s column, I am going to write about a wilderness trek that I took from my camp, down the west side of Beaver Creek and back to camp on the east side. This would be an overnight adventure in a deep wilderness setting with lots of water, especially since two inches of rain fell just yesterday.
I am wearing hip boots and carrying a 12-gauge shotgun and a 22 rifle, as well as, a backpack that simply weighs too much.
I can legally shoot grouse, ducks, squirrel, geese, and turkey. As I trudged through swamp country, it became a matter of getting from point A to point B. There are two flowages in this area — the Meadow Valley and the Kingston. All-in-all, I think it is safe to say that I have more life experiences in this area than any living person.
I am wearing a backpack that I purchased with a letter and a check in 1990 to hike the Appalachian Trail. I was on one of my 100-day tours here when it came, and I practiced hiking at night with it loaded with firewood.
I used to call this place Fall Camp because I would arrive in late September and leave sometime in January.
Back in ’87 I tried to canoe up the Mississippi River. I made it 980 miles before burning out some body parts. I bought an old camper from a friend when I got home and that was hunting camp for the gang that year. Before that it was a canvas tent.
In ‘88, I took over the job as camp manager at Chimo Lodge in Canada. When I came back in the fall, I hooked the camper up to my Chevy pickup and put my first addition onto camp which was an 8x12 foot, framed shack.
The following year, I started writing this column and became a full timer at deer camp. I ran a trap line, ice fished, had a long-distance ice-skating rink, and was generally a hermit living in the forest.
The gang, which started out as my dad, and then his sons, and then Jeff Moll was growing.
I almost forgot, back to my wilderness hike, carrying a shotgun with a 22 slung across your chest and a full pack on your back. Don’t fall or something is going to break, like my waist belt or parts of your body. Total wilderness. I had two compasses but just used the sun. A bit of deer on the west side of Beaver Creek; absolutely the most wolf sign I have ever seen in one area on the east and not a deer track, dropping or buck scrape.
I am all about a wolf population. I was here when there was not a wolf, black bear, fisherman, or a turkey. Now we have all four, and until last week’s delisting of the wolf, managed everything but the wolf.
At 3:30, I built a camp which was a tent and a sleeping bag. With my golden retriever Ruby, I took a walk with both guns and then sat and watched day become night. I did not see any game and really did not care. At dark I entered my unheated, unlit tent until first light and slept on the ground; my tent is a bit shorter than my body and I spent a lot of time awake.
I just made it home three hours ago from where I slept and hiked, and kind of hunted but never fired a shot. I have a few parts of my body that are not happy with me, but as they have for 49 falls in the valley, they will heal.
Love it here!