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November 28, 2007

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Great American Deer Camp

Now is the time for the Great American Deer Camp. At a time when so many traditions seem headed to the dogs, this one is still going strong. Why? I think it’s because deer camp is one of the last refuges for us. We don’t have to shave--or bathe--and we can revel in the smell of wet wool, wood smoke, and cheap cigars. And for a few days, out of reach of the workplace and our domestic duties, we are free.

For me, the best part of camp is the stories, and one of the best I ever heard was at a camp deep in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.

A longtime member of the camp said, “There was this break in the trees that overlooked a cedar swamp, just off the road that led to our morning stand. And every time we passed it Dad would always stop the truck and say, ‘You know, this is a great spot to see a big deer.’ It became a running joke between us because in all those years, we never saw a deer.

“Well, the year Dad died, I almost didn’t come to camp. It was strange being here without him. Coming back for coffee the first morning, I stopped my truck at that spot; I thought it would be a nice way to honor his memory. Know what? There was a huge buck standing there. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It’s the only time I ever saw a deer there.”

What’s your story?

—Slaton White



For the last twenty years of a 56 year marriage, my Dad looked after my invalid mother. Hunting just wasn't in the cards with all of his responsibilities except for an occasional well orchestrated support team covering for him. I feared that when she passed away last year, he may find too much of a void in his life to overcome. Instead, now at 79 years he has started doing some things for himself that he had put away for so long. One of them is going back to the club with me for our dog hunts for deer. A couple of weeks ago we were hunting together and he said "This stool is really hurting my back." So I walked back to the car and got him a chair and some water. He remarked that he was a little cold, so I helped him fasten his collar. As we sat together in the cold morning air listening to the hounds, he said "You know, I don't even know if I could hit a deer now." "You'll do fine." I said. He said, "You know, it's so beautiful out here, I really don't mind if we don't see a deer." He nodded off to sleep in the chair, and I realized that I was doing for him, the same things he had done for me 50 years before, and in the same place. For us, time had changed so much. For the woods around us, time had stood still. Last week on another hunt we had a couple of bucks come by within yards of Dad. His gun was up, but he didn't shoot. "They were kinda small. I wasn't sure they would make the club program." he said. A little later, with the dogs howling along across the swamp a nice buck came bounding to us across the bottom like he was on a string. I was at Dad's shoulder looking right down the barrel with him. As the buck plunged toward us, he kept whispering "Is he big enough? Is he big enough?" At twenty paces I said "He's good Dad, take him!" and he did. We said a quick prayer of thanks over the deer, and I said."You did good Dad." He looked quietly at me, took my hand and said, "I know I did son."


Thanks RTRGC,I think we all can relate to that one,or something close to it.