Picture this: You wake up to an old fashioned bell alarm at 5:00am with a splitting headache. You stare blankly across the bunkhouse at the camp table with at least four empty bottles of “Canadian Hunter” whiskey, beer cans, cribbage boards, and stale cheese and sausage. Theo is passed out on the floor by the woodstove. You wonder where you are for a second and remember that you’re in Northwestern Wisconsin (whoa), and you’ve been deer camp hopping. At first it doesn’t sound all that appealing. Good, I wanted to start with the worst part of deer camp, because it’s all nothing but awesome from here! Book your vacation right now for this coming Friday, because that’s the day before gun deer hunting opener. If you’re hesitating I’ll prod you with this proof that this trend is truly hot right now. Need more, fine. And if you want to do some actual hunting you have the option. Think about it. Are deer free range? YES! Are they local? YES! Are they cage-free? YES! Are they organic? OH HELL YES!
You don’t have to hunt, or even know anything about hunting to go deer camp hopping, just show up at any country bar in Wisconsin this Friday around noon and start talking turkey… er deer. Practice
your yer accent on the trip up to mimic the local dialects. This phrase can get you a out of a lot of sticky situations if you pronounce everything correctly, so get it down . “Ya, soorry dere, oops.”
Before you hit up the bar we must address an important issue. Apparel. Don’t go near the country wearing hollister blaze orange skinny jeans, or even your favorite Wollrich chamois shirt, you need to go authentic. Get to a Goodwill and find an almost worn out pair of oversized wool pants, a hooded sweatshirt with some random local company’s name on it, a blaze orange jacket, and a whole bunch of warm stuff. Don’t forget to “Back Axe“, you’ve been waiting for this since you had that thing hand crafted by the local artisinal axe crafter. The one new purchase I would advise is one of these hats. It will be a good conversation starter because people will notice that it’s new and ask you about it. Also, note the short brim. Classic.
Once you’re properly dressed and speaking the language getting invited to various camps shouldn’t be much of an issue. Just buy some beers at the bar, play some classic rock or early country on the jukebox, and get ready to live. Within about 5 minutes somebody will start talking about camp or going back to camp. As soon a you hear that buy two cases of Miller High Life off sale for the road. Order loudly so they can hear you. “Hey, you wanna come to our camp” some enormous man wearing bibs will bellow as he sees the cases of beer slide across the bar top. “Sure!” You’re in.
You and your posse Ike (it’s ok just this once for him to bring his banjo), Theo, and Matilda (never go alone) will then follow a rusted ford f-150 4×4 with supercab and long box down a labyrinthine corridor of logging roads and gravel pits. Make sure Matilda enables breadcrumbs on her concealed iPhone’s GPS before you leave the blacktop. Crack a roady as your new friends in the pickup will certainly be enbibing and will out you as imposters if you don’t toss at least one empty beer car out your window. After about 30 minutes you will pull in to the camp! This place has it all! Sauna, woodstove, rustic furniture, deer mounts on the wall, dirty magazines, bunks, woodstove, outhouse, sink. You’ll get to learn the ways of the woods and hear tales of hunts from years past. Stroke your beard as some insanely drunk dude tells you about the time he drove his truck off the highway into the Brule river, “shake the hand that shook the Brule!” he’ll holler as his extends his sand paper tough hand for a shake. Later, around the fire, whip out your back axe and stare menacingly at Theo. The other hunters will stop singing along with Sweet Home Alabama playing on WNXR-FM from Iron River and grin, eyes alight with drink and fire, as you slowly walk over to him and swing, quickly shaving a few long curly ribbons of bark off the white birch stump he’s sitting on to use to floss some sausage bits from your teeth. Other than that, try not to talk too much, just let the action come to you, you won’t be disappointed.
If you do plan on doing any actual hunting make sure you drink as much water as possible at around 2am when most of your new comrades are passed out. You’ll need to be hydrated for what’s ahead. Make sure you have a license of course, you don’t want to end up like these idiot hipsters. For your first outing I’d recommend sitting in a tree stand all day with only a sandwich and a gallon of apple cider. The guys will recognize you as hardcore if you do and that will lead to them telling people about it at the bar that night, which will lead to invites from other deer camps to hop. All of this assumes you can hold your liquor of course. If you shoot a deer be sure to field dress it with the biggest knife you can conceivably carry, this is another item which is an important status symbol and may even earn you an endearing redneck nickname like “toothpick.”
With your quarry you will host several BBQ dinner parties back home in Northeast Minneapolis and perhaps more importantly you will be able to re-purpose bone, skin, and antlers into countless items which will cause people to ask you about them and you will get to tell them about deer camp. Advanced hipsters will certainly make some ear plugs from the antlers. Flora will swoon as you tell her about your friend PeeWee in Wisconsin who can shotgun a beer in less than a second, and relive the tale of the 16-pointer that stupid Waldo missed back in ’91 (the year of that huge October snow).