By Cody Anderson
On opening morning it is customary to wake up questioning the time when your inner child finally allowed you to fall asleep that night. Tossing and turning on a floor or sleeping in a poorly cushioned bunk is almost guaranteed at deer camp. Sleep can be hard to come by. Late night discussion has probably already assigned you to your stand position or your pushing route for the first drive of the day. This alone is enough to keep you awake. You see, much thought is given to the first drive, after all you want to start things out on the right foot and you have spent the last year thinking about it. The following drives of the season will unfold instinctually. I sometimes wonder just how close I am to actually walking in my EXACT footsteps from previous years.
A typical deer shack shanty
It's well known that it is hard to be the first to rise at deer camp, a prestigious award in itself. Someone almost always beats you to the glory of turning on the lights and soft country music radio then striking a match to light the stove. The smell of coffee and morning smoke from a freshly stoked Elm and Cherry fire will fill your nose upon entry to the deer camp. One by one all the patrons will fill the room and after a quick breakfast will start to assemble the layers of lucky clothing that will be adorned in a very thought out process. Long underwear, jeans and t-shirt, flannel, hooded sweatshirt, bibs, light coat, heavy coat, Blaze orange. The sound of the cracking fire, crackling Little Debbie wrappers and the brass end of slugs clanking against each other in a pocket will be the last noise you hear as you head out the door to the pick-up truck. As the 5 vehicles leave together in a line out of the driveway you feel untouchable with your convoy. It is time to get down to the business at hand- Deer.
Inside the shanty, waiting for daybreak
The first glimpse of daybreak is gorgeous. The pinky sky against the faint clouds of the early morning makes you forget the cold wind that hits you on the back of your neck. This push is scheduled to take about an hour. No more than an hour and 15 minutes. As you begin the walk up the big hill to the big timber you appreciate the heat you are conducting and begin to feel sorry for the members of the hunting party that have been designated standers on this cold early morning drive. You tiptoe in, trying to find the spaces between the leaves in order for as quiet of entry as possibly. Head on a swivel, firearm at the ready, you make your way from tree to tree. Still hunting is the art of moving slowly and choosing strategic places to stop and observe your surroundings. Many times you can walk right into shotgun range of an unsuspecting Whitetail with a correctly executed still hunt approach.
BOOM! Finally, someone has taken the first shot of the year. Then a follow up shot three seconds later. Who was the lucky hunter? Were they successful? Had their clothing held its luck? Had their “sighting in” been true? Had the wood pile been stacked just right at camp? Will they get to add a true story this year or maybe a stretch?! Your hopes are certainly high as you finish the timber and begin looking for a gathering of Blaze orange on the other side. There will be many deer harvested this season but none quite as important as the first. You feel like it all has culminated again, each thing was just so and success was guaranteed as long as you didn't stray from your proven path.
Memories of the Hunt
The camp stove this evening will cook the first deer of the season and everyone will join in to help process the trophy. The tale of the hunt will be told in 10 different ways and everyone will share their perspective of the story. A truly blissful moment to say the least, a rare opportunity to experience passion with a group of people with a common goal in mind. An obsessive passion that burns all year long until that perfect moment in time known to most as December but known to one lucky group as Deer Season....
One of the rewards of a successful hunt