Back to the Meadow Valley

Forty-four years ago I took part in my first deer hunting and camping trip to the Meadow Valley Wildlife Area/Necedah National Wildlife Refuge for the first time.

My dad, the late Robert Walters, was our leader and my older brothers, Mike and Tom, were his lieutenants. I was the rookie that knew nothing but was incredibly excited to be going to deer camp.

Our version of deer camp back then was a canvas 8-by-8-foot tent, a set of bunk bed cots and two single-man cots. We used a Coleman white gas lantern, a kerosene heater (totally unventilated) and a white gas Coleman stove for cooking.

Deer camp started on a Friday morning when we all loaded up in whatever beat-up car my dad was driving at the time and ended on Sunday morning. On Sunday, we had to make sure that there was plenty of time to get back to the car and listen to the Packers on the radio.

Fast forward to 1980! My old buddy Jeff Moll has been going to camp for years. I am a deck hand on a riverboat that runs from New Orleans to Louisville, Ken.

The Universal Trader and its crew push barges loaded with gasoline and diesel fuel north and comes back to New Orleans empty. I work 30 days and then have the next 30 off, paid. Not a bad life for a kid that just turned 19.

As is always the case for hunting and fishing, I have manipulated my schedule so that I worked 60 days and now have 60 off. The year earlier, back in ‘79, I had started doing this [type of scheduling), and that my friends is when I started living in paradise each fall and the journey from a canvas tent began to evolve into what it is today.

Saturday, Nov. 7

High 62, Low 28

The tent has been replaced with many upgrades and now is an 18-by-36-foot take-down pole barn that is stored at my place along with what is close to a semi-load of firewood, bunk beds, picnic tables, wood stoves and a gas light system that has six lights.

Camp building weekend has 18-28 Red Brush Hunters showing up from all over the state to handle the task of setting up camp before it gets dark out.

Back in the day when we had about 15 toddlers between us, the rule was that as soon as you no longer are filling diapers you get to go to camp-building weekend.

Though this is a big work day, there are a lot of laughs and a pretty good-sized shindig once the work is done.

Monday, Nov. 9

High 61, Low 33

I am the only one at camp and I love it here. I am bow hunting in new country which is a long walk (one mile) through a swamp. Harvesting a whitetail deer here with a stick and a string is a lowpercentage game. Wolves, black bears and winter keep the numbers down and the remaining deer very wise.

There is zero agriculture in the area and baiting is not allowed. It seems like the hunts where you kick up a deer on the walk out that you generally do not see a deer on the hunt.

Today I had my most eventful, bow hunt that I have ever had here as far as numbers go. First I passed up a beautiful spike buck (I am a meat eater and the younger deer 1.5-2.5 years of age are much better eating), then I watched an eight-pointer for 30 minutes that was just out of bow range.

Before I climbed down from my tree I saw three more bucks and a doe, never a sign of a human or a no-trespass sign. Unlike the old days when our average buck was a spike or three-pointer, I saw some real hogs.

So I have 44 years of never missing an opener here! If I play my cards right and continue to manipulate the schedule, I should easily make 60 and what the heck, let’s shoot for 70.

If someone close to me passes away, put them on ice for a couple of weeks. It’s deer camp time!

Sunset


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