Nov 10, 2015

Wisconsin Deer Camps

A Tradition Of Generations

All of us who were born and raised here in Wisconsin are familiar with the nine day gun deer season.  Its history is rich with tradition and, for many of us, it was our first exposure to the outdoor world. The economic impact it has on small local economies is enormous. From the small towns to the big towns the cash registers are ringing. Working in the outdoor industry, I can feel the anticipation and the excitement the week leading into opening day. The talk of getting the “Big One” fills the air along with picking up the last minute supplies. The gun deer season seems to create an atmosphere that all is well with the world. For nine days all problems and issues are left behind and substituted with an outdoor adventure.

Something special is created every year during the gun deer season. It may be the first hunt for someone, hunting in a new area or an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. These are the things that build the deer hunting tradition and make it as special as it is. For many hunters, it’s about bagging the big buck. I think what matters most are the laughs, poker games that last for hours, venison sausage and most importantly spending time with family and friends. This may be the only time that some families get together for the year. Memories play a major role in the building of tradition. Think about it, if you harvest the buck of a lifetime would it be more memorable if you were alone, or sharing that with a group of people who have the same passion as you?  I know a few people who go to deer camp and don’t even hunt; they just want to be a part of this special time of the year.

There are deer camps scattered all over this state that span generations. I am aware of some that have been in existence since the 1930’s. As an outdoor person, this is the way you pass along the stewardship of the outdoors. I feel this is a great opportunity to put emphasis on the importance of hunting and share some of your knowledge and experience with others.  Along with that comes the education on how to field dress, skin, butcher and turn your venison into a delicious meal. Many life lessons can be learned at deer camp, such things as patience, teamwork, reward, failure and, most importantly, a healthy respect for the outdoors.

Deer camp for me has taken many trails. I have had the pleasure of being part of several camps. In my early days of deer hunting, I spent time in camps located in Buffalo, Marquette, Florence and Langlade Counties. I was lucky enough to have friends that thought enough of me to invite me to hunt with them. Coming from a family with few deer hunters, these opportunities were and always will be greatly appreciated. Being exposed to different camps greatly enhanced my passion for deer hunting. What I enjoyed the most was meeting new people and having them share their pictures and stories with me. After purchasing my own piece of deer hunting heaven 15 years ago, deer camp became small. My nephew and brother would drive up from Milwaukee and spend the opening weekend at my home in Neenah. We would have a great dinner prepared by my wife the night before; I would show them all the trail camera pictures and talk about all the deer I had seen during the archery season. Over those years many deer were harvested, many stories were told, but what mattered the most was time spent with family and the memories that were made.

If you are part of a deer hunting camp, cherish the time spent in the outdoors and making memories with family and friends. As you head into the woods to participate in the 2015 gun deer season please remember these few things. Treat your opportunities as a privilege not a right. Hunt safe, hunt hard and respect the outdoors. And finally take the time to share your passion for the outdoors with someone it will make you a better person.