In this post I would like to depart from my bow-hunting experience and reflect on the family hunting heritage I have been blessed with here in Minnesota.
Deer camp has been a tradition across North America for many generations. From the small Shanties of yesteryear where hunters gathered to harvest meat for the winter, to our modern cabins of luxury and taking an animal of choice, the excitement of deer season has remained the same. My fondest memories of deer camp bring me back to Grandpa and Grandma’s cabin on Little Spirit Lake in Vergas Minnesota.
I wedge my cased Remington 30-06 semi-auto into the back of my pick-up with the other gear and make a quick mental check-list. Cooler with grub, hunting clothes, boots, ammo and buck tag. I am set! I hug and kiss my wife and roll out of the driveway with our Son for another hunting season.
Out on the road I witness the annual parade of campers, and 4×4’s with orange gloves and hats stuffed up on the dash-boards driving to their destinations. Some are stopped for gas and last-minute supplies while hunters, sporting their favorite blaze hunting caps, share the excitement of the annual pilgrimage with one another.
Grandpa’s cabin is forty-five minutes East from my little town, which is situated on the transition zone of Prairie and Lake Country in West Central Minnesota. As I get closer, my pickup seems to anticipate our arrival like a team of horses heading back to the barn after a good run.
I turn into the cottage driveway and my headlamps scan the edge of the woods in search of deer activity. The gravel under my truck tires is a welcome sound as I roll to a stop next to Grandpa’s old tan Suburban, his hunting rig of choice. I step out of the heated truck and breathe in the clear cold air. As I grab my rifle and duffel from the pickup box I pause, and gaze up at the brilliant canopy of stars. Orion the Hunter watches over me. A hint of wood-smoke is in the air and my boots crunch the carpet of leaves as I make my way across the lawn. Deer Camp!
I lug my pack through the door and am instantly greeted by familiar voices, smiles and hugs. I work my way through the gathering of family and friends to set my rifle with the collection of hunting guns before getting settled in. The fireplace holds a crackling blaze and sandwiches are being made for tomorrows lunch on the stands. The cousin’s laughter, old hunting stories and boastful promises of this years biggest buck fill the room. Supper is announced and we gather around the table for Grandpa’s traditional giving of thanks. After jostling for the front of the line, we all settle in for a feast of Grandma’s homemade Chicken and Dumpling soup, another hunting camp tradition.
One by one we start pulling ourselves up from the couch and easy chairs to make last minute preparations for the hunt. Some stay up playing games and visiting, but I turn in, even though I can never find sleep before the quiet hours of the night.
I lay wrapped in the comfy cabin quilts. The wind plays at the windows and I hear an occasional pop from the ebbing coals under the fireplace grate as the murmur of voices and laughter drift up through the floor. I turn my thoughts to past deer seasons, old friends, my sweetie back home, and dreams of how tomorrows hunt might play out. Finally my anticipation gives way and allows me to capture a few hours of slumber.
The next sound I hear is Grandpa making coffee down in the kitchen.
Its daylight in the swamp at Deer camp!
Thank you Grandpa.