Rushing out to camp Friday evening before the gun deer season’s opening day, I was thinking about what I most looked forward to.
The hunt itself? Probably not, though I certainly love to hunt deer.
Once, it might have been more of a contest, but the time spent at camp “wit’ da guys” has been the most anticipated part of season for quite a few years.
It was dark when I arrived. Heading up the driveway and seeing the glow in our north-facing window made me smile.
Opening the door, I felt theat rush of dry wood heat and smelled its smoke. The temp was dropping rapidly, so that was nice indeed.
As I kicked the snow off my hikers, I heard a harsh but pleasant welcome from my Uncle Loopy.
Venison sandwiches, beer and conversation rounded out the evening, save for retrieving 800 pounds of hunting clothes and gear from my truck. I stayed up a bit later than the rest, updating our log.
Our crew this year is at a record-low in numbers. Just four of us are calling Müütka lodge home for the gun deer season. No “guest” members are signed on and our other regular, Dennis Da Menace, is out of town hunting with his brother for the season.
But camp is ready to go and warm. And with my dad and Larry being retired, and Loopy looking at two weeks of vacation, it should see plenty of use.
We eat well and drink well at camp. Steaks, ham, chicken, spaghetti and more are on the menu. All to be prepared by loving hands at camp.
Opening day breakfast was bacon, eggs, and corned venison hash. The meal warmed us inwardly, then the wind cooled us outwardly. It was a brutal wind, and seemed to affect both deer and hunter participation.
The only nearby shot I heard in the morning was about 7:15 a.m. I thought it could be my Uncle Larry (Burnboy), while he was thinking it could be my Uncle Loopy. Loopy thought it could be me.
It was none of us, of course, but as the three of us discussed it at camp, Loopy declared, “I guess we filled up.”
The three of us enjoyed toasted sandwiches and other treats before my dad showed.
Bawb had his morning hunt derailed a short way into it, we found out. He learned his furnace was malfunctioning and spent much of the morning at home tinkering with wires and stuff.
Dad was back out for the evening hunt, though, and even saw some deer. A couple of fawns and a yearling doe passed through. Dad declined to shoot.
The rest of us weren’t faring as well; our company was the wind. I can say I had my fair share of company that day. I was enclosed in a pop-up blind, and I’m sure it helped somewhat, but I was facing right into that wind.
With the cover of the wind, and the blind itself, I was able to move various body parts in an effort to keep them relatively warm, and hand warmers kept my fingers flexible, but my face froze into a squinting scowl. I guess that doesn’t matter; deer seem to dislike my face regardless of its expression.
Back at camp, we enjoyed steak, grilled by my dad, along with sauted onions and mushrooms. A few beers washed the hearty meal down.
I called my wife, Cheryl, and learned the cold forced her into only a very brief evening hunt, with no deer seen. It’s difficult for her, especially as of late, to move much. Her son, Dan, and cousin, Jim, keep an eye on her while I’m away.
Dad hit the hay early Saturday, and actually headed for the bunk room when he did so. The rest of us nodded off in the Beer Wing – the cooking, eating, and recreational area of camp.
At midnight, I rounded us up, shut down the generator, and we took to sleeping in our actual bunks.
As the radio spewed out the words “eight below” in the predawn dark of Sunday morning, we shivered collectively. At least the wind had died. And there was even some success.
The coffee was good and so was the breakfast sausage. Also, my dad hit the woods early and rode out the cold, which he found more tolerable than the winds of Saturday. At 7:40 a.m., a spike buck wandered out of the swamp and Dad took him with a neck shot. He tagged the buck, dragged it near his blind, then resumed his vigil, since he still held a doe tag.
At 10 a.m., Dad quit for the morning, then got lucky when a friend passed his truck on the road and decided to turn around. Dad had help loading his deer.
I had to depart mid-day on day two, after listening to a portion of the Packers game with my uncles.
On the Sunday evening hunt, Dad had a deer approach very close from behind him about quitting time. It sniffed the spot where he had left the buck laying earlier in the day, then departed.
Dad walked out to his truck and noticed deer tracks very close to and all around the truck. Deer curiosity was evident. Well, there was a powerful smell.
The spike Dad killed was rather rank-smelling. Its tarsal glands were well and frequently used, with frozen urine evident on the hair of the buck’s rear legs.
Loopy saw deer, but had no shooting, on his evening hunt. Sightings while walking in for the evening post and then movement in the swamp he overlooked. One deer also sounded its alarm from downwind of his position.
Burnboy saw a porcupine earlier in the day.
“He was far enough away from here (camp) that I let him go,” he said.
Have I ever mentioned how fond porcupines are of the walls of Müütka Lodge? Much repair work was done this year due to porcupine activity.
Anyway, I wasn’t at all jealous of the guys as they prepared a ham dinner out at camp and I found myself returned to the civilized world. Not at all.
Well, maybe a little. But I plan on going back.
Craig Turk may be reached at email@example.com.