Fall camp: heaven on earth

It is Thursday, Nov. 16 and it got dark out an hour ago. I am going to deer camp in about three hours and will spend much of the next 10 days there and I will love every minute of it.

Though I really do not care, I have been having a case of extremely bad luck for about 90 days and that luck just continued when just before dark I put some rounds through my daughter Selina’s 30:06 BAR and the scope became 100-percent fogged up and now seems to be worthless.

This week’s column is about spending time at camp before the deer gun season and how much I love it there.

Monday, Nov. 13

High 43, Low 28

The Red Brush Gang is the name of our camp. We live on public land for a couple of weeks each year and I have been doing this for 46 falls in a row and have never missed an opening day of deer gun season at this place.

The Meadow Valley Wildlife Area and many adjacent public lands are what we call home. There is very little tourism or industry and the land is quite often saturated with water. I have never seen a no-trespass sign there and did I mention that I love it here?

Forty-six years ago it was my dad and my brothers, Tom, Mike and myself and a canvas tent. We were dirt poor, dad’s car was always worn out and so about 43 years ago I recruited my mechanically inclined buddy Jeff Moll to become a part of the gang.

These days, camp is an 18-by- 36-foot pole barn that we store in one of my sheds as it takes down to 6-foot sections.

When I am here alone my mind never quits going back to forever ago, one of my most consistent memories is how I hardly ever kill any deer with a bow and arrow but do quite well with a rifle.

I love my bow hunts in this true wilderness area. Just today I saw huge male fishers three times, yesterday I saw a goodlooking buck with a drop tine. On this three-day trip I am putting some serious miles on my hip boots in my neverending attempt to explore these swamps and forests

Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s I called this place “Fall Camp” and I wrote the only two poems that I have ever written while spending three full months here. One of them went like this: “Eyes that see, ears that hear, feet keep moving, camp is near.”

The 10 or so years that I was a squatter, I became very proficient at cross country skiing and ice-skating. My adventures were always after dark and I would go for miles.

Something that could not have happened 30 years ago is that the cross hairs on Selina’s scope were put on a black bear and my daughter killed that black bear just two short months ago.

Black bears returned to this area a little over 20 years ago and I was one of the first people to find out back in ‘95 when one raided my Fall Camp while I was here.

One of my plans for this threeday trip was to duck hunt. Last week’s cold temperatures (which caused me very bad luck on the Flambeau Flowage) have frozen all the marshes and the ducks have flown to open water.

On this trip I have my 18-month old golden retriever, Ruby, along. I have had six golden retrievers since 1981. Two of them were born at Fall Camp, one died here!

All in all I think that it is safe to say that I have spent five of my 56 years walking this earth within 10 miles of my camp and it could quite easily be eight, and not a dime has been paid for the mortgage or property tax.

Whenever I think of my funeral, I think this place: everyone is welcome, lots of classic rock, and a truckload of cold beer and not a bit of negativity.

That, my friends is my hunting camp, the scope issue will be resolved and bucks will be going down!


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