On a recent hunting trip out west I was reminded as to why I love deer hunting. Myself along with four close friends found ourselves on a high mountaintop with two wall tents and a mouth-watering supper on the grill. As supper was heating up on the grill beneath the soft subtle light of a lantern, and a falling star shooting across the western sky was the official start of deer camp storytelling and reminiscing. I don’t care if you are a rifle hunter, a bow hunter or both. We all share the same passion; we are all hunters no matter what weapon we choose to carry.
For me the truth behind the hunt started at an early age. When I was twelve years old, my dad took me to deer camp located on the Upper Michigan boarder in northern Wisconsin. From that trip on I experienced the small things that the general public doesn’t understand about hunting. It’s the things that Hollywood doesn’t portray in the movies and even Bambi can’t deny. The truth behind the hunt is more than the kill; it’s about traditions, good friends and the stories of past hunts.
As each hunter would arrive in camp, the fellow hunters in camp would walk out on the porch and greet the new arrival with a big smile and a firm handshake. For most of us, deer season was the only time that our busy schedules would allow for us to sit down and reminisce about the past and plans for the future.
After everyone was unpacked and settled in our old rickety cabin, that was home for the hunters (as well as the mice), supper would soon be sizzling over the stove. What I find the most interesting about deer camp is that for most of our busy home lives it’s a challenge to have a good old fashion sit down supper, but at deer camp it’s a daily event.
After a gut busting supper that would make Paul Bunyan himself loosen up his belt, we would all gather around the old oil stove and talk over a torn and well weathered topo map like an army strategically planning our next move about the mornings hunt. These are the truths behind the hunt.
Fast forwarding to the present, I was introduced to two guys that I had never met before, to head out west on a mule deer hunt with. It didn’t take long and soon I had so much in common with these two guys that the eighteen-hour drive wouldn’t be long enough to share stories.
As we arrived at our camp location, five guys worked together like a well oiled machine and it wasn’t long an our two wall tents where set up and what would be our home for the next two weeks was ready to become a tradition. After supper we started a nice warm fire in the old barrel stove. Soon we rested our aching feet and backs on old tethered cots and closed our eyes. Even though our eyes were closed, our ears were open. Intensely listening to the music of the mountains, which was singing in harmony with the crackling fire. It’s the sights, sounds, and smells that provide the scripts to our songs. Soon with the sound of the wind against the mountainside was singing, then the crackling fire joined in and last the howls of distant coyotes joined into play the mountain music that we all drifted off to sleep dreaming about.
It wasn’t long and the silver morning light started to break the mountaintops. A warm cup of coffee that was brewed on a wood stove finished the picture that most artists dream to capture in the morning. Wall tents warmed by the suns beams that were projecting like a spot light from the mountain tops was a picture that was meant for hunting magazines. Its sights like these that aren’t in the travel brochures.
These are the truths behind the hunt. You have to hunt to be able to kill but you don’t have to kill to have hunted. Far too often we get captured up in the kill or how big of a buck we got, that it takes away from the enjoyment of why we got into the sport in the first place. It becomes a competition and not a moment to cherish. So the next time you’re out on a hunting trip with friends and family, don’t forget to take the time to breathe in the fresh air, relax and enjoy the small things that draw all hunters alike to the great outdoors. It’s not all about the kill or the biggest buck. It’s about friends, families, and the memories made as well as shared that is the real truth behind the hunt.