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Early Remembrances of Deer Camp

I recently got to thinking about deer camp, specifically in regard to whether we hunted for ‘fun’ or not. The answer is no, we didn’t hunt for fun, but it occurred to me that many people haven’t been hunting, many have never stayed in deer camp, and some haven’t even gone camping. Some of my earliest remembrances were from deer camp.

I was born in early October. At the time, that coincided with deer season, so my first camping trip of any sort was deer camp. My mother and father were both avid deer hunters, and though they both were excellent shots, my mother was actually the better hunter of the two.

She was raised that way. She and her seven brothers and sisters were all taught how to hunt and how to handle a deer rifle, as well as how to process the meat once it was shot. My grandfather was an old-school Cherokee who primarily put meat on the table through hunting. He and my grandmother also had chickens and such, but most of the meat on the table was venison. It was natural that all of their kids were taught how to do it. Grandfather was a sharpshooter in WWI, so his kids were not only taught how to hunt, they were taught how to do it properly and accurately.

None of them hunted for fun. That never entered their minds. Hunting was a necessity. My grandfather was strong on teaching his kids, “If you kill an animal, you’d better be prepared to eat it.” My father’s family was much smaller, but he was taught in a similar way, so my brother and sisters were taught the same way, as was I. 

As I said, my first trip to deer camp was when I was still an infant. Naturally, I don’t remember it. However, it was a yearly thing to go out, set up camp, and hunt. Often, the nights were frosty and sometimes the days didn’t get much warmer, so it wasn’t comfortable. The trade-off was the venison. Venison and elk were the main meats that ended up on our table throughout the rest of the year. It was rare for us to eat chicken or pork, and I truthfully never realized until I was nearly a teen that any other cut of meat came off a beef except hamburger.

My siblings and I were taught to hunt from an early age, but what some people find amusing is that the first “rifle” we were allowed to use was actually made of wood and didn’t shoot anything. We had to use that mock rifle as if it was a real one and only when our parents were satisfied that we would properly handle a deer rifle were we actually allowed to shoot a deer rifle. Our father also taught hunter safety classes and we had to pass those classes with high marks. Any of us could have quoted most of the manual by memory.

Hunting wasn’t a picnic, either. We would get up an hour before dawn, and by the time it was daylight, we’d be where we needed to be to hunt. It would be very common to walk several miles through rough, uneven country. If a deer was shot, we would then need to clean it and drag it back to a road so it could be carried back to camp to be hung up. If we didn’t get one, we’d head back to camp around 10 am for breakfast. This was repeated in the afternoon, again and again, day after day, until all tags were filled or it was time to pack up and go home.

In some years, we were fortunate to come back with a single deer. In other years, the hunting was better. However, “fun” would not have been an appropriate way to describe it. The pleasure came primarily when we ate the venison. The hunting was a challenge and required a lot of effort. I’d agree that it was a sport, but so are fishing and camping. Many people have had similar experiences.

  • Do you or did you think that hunters hunt for the fun of it?

    • Yes, I did, but now I realize that it isn’t for fun
    • Yes, and I still think hunters hunt for the fun of it
    • No, I know that most hunters don’t hunt just for the fun of it


What do you think?

14 points

Written by Rex Trulove

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