My first deer camp was at an a state park in Indiana. It was the early 1990s, and I was just 12 or 13. It was only my Uncle Tom, cousin Derek and I. We slept on the ground in a tent with sleeping bags. There was nothing fancy about it, but the two-night trip changed my life.
Hunting can be a solitary experience, especially deer hunting. You spend a lot of time alone, often 15 feet or so up in a tree, which affords you ample opportunity to sit and think deeply surround by the comfort of nature. All of which is a huge reason why hunting is so enjoyable. But for me the greatest joy comes from the time spent sharing hunting experiences.
With Missouri firearms deer season now open, there are deer camps underway scattered in every county across the state. Some are happening at fancy cabins on managed private property while others are tent camps on public land. No matter the comfort of the camp, family and friends gathering together for the annual fall tradition of deer camp creates great memories.
Food is an important aspect of camp. You eat a lot of meals in your life. So to vividly remember one, it had to be special. During that first camp of mine, my uncle took ground venison seasoned with Worcestershire sauce, salt and black pepper waded it up in a ball and added diced carrots, potatoes and onions. He wrapped it in tin foil and placed it directly on the outer edge of the hot coals of our campfire. We ate that meal on a picnic table surrounded by empty campsites in forest of trees that had shed their leaves. I’ll never forget how good it was, and how grown up I felt at that moment.
The final preparations are complete. All of the treestands and ground blinds are up. A large stack of seasoned firewood is next to the fire pit. By the time you read this, my first Driftwood Acres deer camp is underway with five friends and I deep in the Missouri Ozarks.
Sitting around the crackling flames of a campfire, I’ll soak in the reality of completing another trip around the sun. I’m reminded of time by the passing and coming of seasons. Not spring, summer, winter and fall. I measure instead by deer, turkey, trout and duck. How quickly the time has passed since I was the young boy sitting fireside, looking up to my uncle who so willing give of himself to guide my development as a hunter. Now I am paying it forward, and hosting camps for others who desire the same sort of experience.
For so many people, deer season is about so much more than shooting deer. It is the one time of year, for a very short window, when hundreds of thousands of hunters put aside the stresses of everyday life to focus on time spent outdoors. It is a time to reflect on the hunters who came before us and pass on our tradition to those who will follow.
I hope you have a wonderful and safe deer season. And I hope you find success, however you may judge it. Most of all, I hope you have others to share your experiences with.
See you down the trail…