Alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. Quickly it is turned off and forgotten…
I have had the good fortune to be part of the same hunting club for more than 28 years. Over this time I have developed great friendships. Being able to laugh at the stupid things we do at camp has been well worth the price of admission. So when the leaves of fall begin to show, renewing friendships at camp seems all that is important. We have all shared in the ups and downs that life brings. Every fall, I look forward to seeing these old friends again.
And I do mean old. Where have the years gone? In these years, I have seen waistlines expand, hair disappear and pill boxes emerge with days of the week printed on them. What is next, camo Depends?
To better understand our club, I have broken it down into five categories (in order of importance): Food (beverage included), Cabin, Financial, Members, Hunting.
As sad as this may seem, pork and beans, Vienna sausage and saltines have been replaced with hummus and salads. Yes, I said hummus. In our club, fine dining is much more important than a 10-pointer hanging from the pole on opening day. Prior to the weekend trip, e-mails go back and forth, inquiring as to what our meals might be.
Recipes are exchanged! When our wives found out about this, we were roundly ridiculed. They said they only told a few people. At last count more than 4 million women laughed over this. I think it has gone viral.
Back to food. If by some chance you are a vegetarian, you are in the wrong club. We have the protein group covered. Every flavor of bacon and sausage adds to our cholesterol count.
Usually the evening meal consists of appetizers that would make the Food Network proud, and massive amounts of everything else. From soups to steaks, casseroles to cantaloupes and from potatoes to fois gras, our meal is served. OK, the fois gras part is not true.
So after we have gorged ourselves on the appetizers, we are ready for the main course. Several different meats, vegetables, greens and copious amounts of garlic (infused) bread… (that just means we put a lot of garlic and butter on it), are served. Of course, after every meal you can hear someone lament about having eaten too much. We pay him no attention and bring out the desserts. Several cakes, pies and cookies beautifully adorn our $1 tablecloth. No one refuses dessert. Tomorrow night I will eat less. During this meal, adult beverages or white and red wine might be consumed (did you know that you can drink either color wine whether you have fish or not?).
We still haven’t finished the food part yet. Breakfast. Of course coffee (mandatory for functioning) is the first course. This is followed by dozens of eggs, biscuits and sausages (even venison sausage—refer to the Financial Section later for more information on cost of venison.) It is no wonder why we put on a little extra weight during hunting season. Just like the deer, we too need some extra weight to survive the cold winters in the Deep South.
When we first started hunting, sleeping in the back of the truck wasn’t that bad. Youth equals stupidity. Remember the old canvas tent that weighed more than your vehicle? Remember how they never kept you dry? No matter what, we never came up with more than three stakes. Undaunted, we secured our tent to the trees with superb rope tying skills. This lasted till the winds and the rains came. Thank heaven we now have a cabin.
As hunters, we understand that “roughing it” is a part of the experience. It is this experience that molds us in becoming proficient hunter-gatherers. Granted, we have air conditioning, hot shower, toilet, satellite TV, dishwasher, fireplace, ice machine and central vacuum. Maybe, I should have left off that we have central vac. We have evolved.
Adjacent to our cabin is the RV and camper section of our retirement village. Some of the campers are nice, others have character. As for now, shuffleboard has not yet been voted in as an approved recreational activity.
The Hilton: Our cabin is a 100-year-old share cropper’s shack. It sits nestled in the old oaks, high on a hill with the evening sun glistening off the large front porch and majestic columns. Really, it has roofing for siding and a front porch that is upright only by the Grace of God. To us, it is the embodiment of Tara. (Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder). The few wives that have seen our cabin don’t share in our sentiment. What do they know? They watch Dancing with the Stars.
Sitting around the fireplace has become our favorite pastime. We reflect on how nice it is to talk amongst ourselves sharing the day’s activities. We proudly state how we were able to slip into our stand undetected after having made that long journey from our ATV. (Long journey = 74.8 linear feet). We talk on how we have become one with nature as we sat quietly soaking in nature’s wealth. (If I could only hit those dang squirrels.) We discuss strategies for tomorrow’s hunt—who is making the coffee, and what time is breakfast?
This next section should not be allowed to get into the hands of the enemy (our wives). If they are able to obtain this information, they will use it against us to purchase more shoes and other “stuff.” Don’t ask what other stuff is, too scary.
The Lease: this is necessary because only one guy in the club has 30 acres, and 22 members on it is a little too cozy.
Stuff: Not to be confused with women’s stuff. Ours is important. Stuff is always paid for in cash so it can’t be traced.
Clothing: Remember when we first started hunting? Anything sold at Sears seemed to work. Ted Williams work boots doubled as hunting boots. They would keep your feet warm and dry—as long as the ambient temperature stayed above 65 degrees and you stayed away from water. Then came Bass Pro. From those catalogs, we could order stuff that matched. Of course, that was back when we had money and an actual economy. Today, nobody’s camo matches anything. As in all clubs, there is one exception. This is the member who looks like he stepped off the cover of GQ.
Now the fun stuff…
Technology: Trail cameras—these are great for helping hunters manage their deer herd. This enables one to identify the number of deer and quality of deer. Conclusion—all deer are active at 2:30 a.m, period.
Mosquito Repellent Device: This actually works. However, when it is really hot during bow season and the bugs are most active, it is best to stay inside in the A/C. Conclusion—we haven’t had to buy refills yet.
Deer Stands: Great technological advances have been made in this area since we began hunting. Remember, the 2×4 death traps we stuck between two trees? What were we thinking? Today we have padded climbing marvels that are designed to take you just shy of the heavens. For most of us, that is 12 feet 2 1/2 inches off the ground. Since these stands are so comfortable, we are able to implore our stealth hunting technique (sleeping) to lure our prey into range. Results are mixed, but I do feel more refreshed when I get back to the cabin.
Guns: How cool are we? We have guns that can down a bull elephant at 200 yards. We have scopes that can turn darkness into light. But for some reason, we can’t figure out why we missed the deer at 30 yards. It had to be a limb.
So, as you can see, we hunters have quite a few necessary items to buy to aid us in providing free meat for the family table. By harvesting that large doe (it looked bigger in the woods), we can now calculate a dollar-per-pound figure for our venison. However, this is not recommended, as this number will exceed the National Debt.
Like most clubs, we have some members who only hunt opening weekend. We call these members “sponsors,” and they are generally liked the best. There are some members with major talents in the cooking arena. Again, popular members. On the other hand, we have members who think Tabassco and ketchup are interchangeable.
Well, getting older is a fact of life. Besides all of the normal bodily noises that usually adorn a hunting camp, our older bodies produce some newer ones. Creaking of bones, coughing and wheezing become the ritual of the morning. The aforementioned pill box is opened revealing several pills of all colors designed to keep us upright. Upright is good. I would suggest having some drug stocks in your portfolio. The younger members make snide comments to us about our physical conditions. Wisely, we know they will be like us one day. This is something we remind them of constantly.
Remember when you would get up early and go into the woods when it was still dark? Even now, we have the member who says how rewarding it is to watch the woods come alive as the sun rises. How about drinking a second cup of coffee at camp, that is also rewarding? How many hunters have shot a deer at sunrise? Nobody! Every deer has always been shot after 8:30 a.m. No exceptions. One must understand, that in this modern world, “going green” is important. We have found that by going in late removes the need for flashlights. No used batteries to fill the landfills. Good hunters always put the environment first.
Most members may only hunt an average of about 10 actual days a year, yet, some members think they need to own 143 stands. They say these stands are critical for harvesting that big buck. These “Daniel Boones” usually spout something about the importance of wind direction. Since we hunt in the deep woods of the South, the wind will change directions the exact same amount as our wives change their minds in the shoe department at Dillard’s.
Most of these stands are lost, and if located are fully involved in the growth of the tree. Finding them requires the skills of Lewis & Clark and the Jaws of Life to remove. Many stands will become the permanent home of those furry creatures with bushy tails that disturb our sleep… I mean, hunting.
Somehow, some way, deer do get killed. Even more surprising, some of the deer have antlers. See if this makes sense. We pay $350 to mount the buck, wait a year to get it back, then hang it in the basement where no one can see it, since the commandant upstairs forbids it being placed anywhere else. And since sleeping in the unfinished basement isn’t all that appealing, we sacrifice deer placement for the Big Bed.
So, as you can see, hunting takes patience, skill, good equipment and some luck. In truth, one needs good food, a warm bed, a hot shower and absolutely no alarm clock.
But most important, hunting is about friendships. When life takes a hit on you, a hunting buddy is usually the first to help. From loss of life of loved ones, from the births of our grandchildren, from failure to success, these events have just helped to strengthen the bond within our club.
The bad jokes and bad outfits, the good food and the good weather, it all just heightens our anticipation for opening day. The gray in our hair has taught us that a firm handshake, a cold beer and a warm fire are all that is needed to make a great hunting camp. One day, we may lose our hunting club, but we will never lose the memories.
Has anyone seen where I left my gun?