As the mornings have gradually gotten cooler, and the leaves are sporting their brilliant fall colors, I find myself looking forward to my favorite time of year. Time at our Deer Camp.
Over a warm cup of coffee from an old aluminum percolator pot, I sit on my porch at camp and think about how I got here.
Deer camps here in northern Minnesota have been here long before my time and they are full of traditions and memories. I have been blessed to hunt across much of the mid-west states as a guest in many camps. Camps from nice lodges, to farms, and of course little shacks like ours.
We took over an old abandoned camp in northeastern Minnesota in 2012. Run down and beat up, we knew it needed a lot of work. A 12×24 building with a porch in a stand of Maple trees in the middle of nowhere was now ours. The shack housed a small propane stove, two hide-a-bed couches, and a loft with a couple twin beds.
An old parlor wood stove that burped out a puff of smoke every now and then, and propane lights. Primitive was an understatement. No running water or electricity. Moving forward, I sit here today with my cup of coffee, this deer hunting season, on the new porch my brother and I built.
I look at the new bunk house addition with a shower. It can sleep 10. We now have a generator that powers our building with lights and a refrigerator and fans. A new wood stove that is more efficient. A sturdy wood shed to house firewood for two or three years. A new outhouse called the “Sithouse”.
We have spent a lot of time making our deer camp comfortable for us over the last few years. In that time, while doing all the work, we also made so many memories. It amazes me how easily memories are created around a place like such.
Our camp has a foundation now. I am not speaking of the footings or actual construction of the shelter. I am talking of the family, and friends that join us. The traditions we have when we come here. Even some of the traditions our camp had prior to us in memory of the gentleman who built the shack.
I don’t think I have ever been to a camp that doesn’t have a name. Most of them are extremely unique names that carry a sentimental meaning to their gathering place. For instance, our camp is called “Camp 3 Finger”.
Here is the story behind that. Dear friends of mine have their camp a mile or so away from mine. A gentleman used to hunt near my friends back in the 80’s when my friends built their camp. This gentleman, Ron, really liked the camp my friends built, and he asked if he could have the plans for it. So, my friend Tony, traded the prints for a case of Blatz Beer.
So, Ron built his camp pretty much identical to Tony’s camp. Now, there was something special about Ron. Ron was a Vietnam Veteran. More importantly, he was a combat wounded Veteran. He lost most of his fingers and his sight in one eye during the war. Now, after spending some time with Tony and the rest of the deer hunters in the area, he got the nickname ” 3 finger Ron”, he was okay with it.
Ron built his shack by himself with all rough-cut lumber, a hammer and nails with only 3 fingers! Unfortunately, I was never able to meet Ron. So, when we got the camp, we named it in his memory.
Now, we have what I would call a traditional deer camp. It’s in the woods, its full of blaze orange clothing and the smell of a burning wood stove. But a deer camp can be whatever people call their own. Campers, tents, barns or even their trucks parked at the end of an old logging road.
I am so thankful to have a place to share my experiences and memories with family and friends. Some of these deer camps run three or 4 generations deep. Seeing old black and white pictures at camps with the “old timers” standing next to the meat pole with a couple of big bucks hanging. Or seeing an old blaze orange Stormy Kromer hat hanging in the corner in memory of one of the original camp members.
Our camp will continue to grow with people and memories and traditions. That is what it is all about to me. Spending time with family and friends. People who have never experienced this kind of life, that is a memory.
We base this life around the hunt, however for me, it’s about the camaraderie and the friends. So, for those of you that hunt, enjoy the memories. Spend the quality time with family at your camp. Maybe bring someone new to share the experience with. If it wasn’t for my Dad, and my uncles, and one of my best friends, and best hunting buddies, Tony, I certainly wouldn’t have the camp I have today.
Years of wisdom and guidance passed down to me. I am in the process of passing that same wisdom onto my daughters who join me at Camp 3 Finger. Good luck to you hunters this season. Be safe and shoot straight!