Surviving Deer Camp – and Still Get Your Deer

| Last Updated May 4, 2020

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Every year hunters take to the woods in search of their trophy deer. Some are successful, some are not. But to many hunters, in many ways, the camaraderie between fellow/sister hunters that goes on during deer season is more important than the actual hunt. The best way to enhance this feeling of camaraderie is deer camp. And, yes–while deer camp has been the classic "male bonding" venue for many generations, there are plenty of women who do the same thing. Those who've been at deer camp will recognize that much what is said here is exactly what they've experienced.

The traditional deer camp is when you head Up North (to those who are not from Wisconsin "Up North" usually refers to the northern third of Wisconsin, plus or minus) to a cabin where you and our friends/family get together for an extended period of time, as a social get-together during deer season. There are elaborate meals, drinking, storytelling, laughter, "old timers" relating how they got a trophy buck, and so on.

Some of these deer camps have special names, and the old photos on the cabin walls will often show the hunters of this group way-back-when. "The walls tell stories" that go back for generations, you know, the "good old days." Each evening, there are card games, listening to tales and yarns (lots of them about as truthful as that 60-inch crappie you said you lost during the fishing season), and plenty of guffaws.

Everyone at deer camp usually has a specific "duty" or job assigned. There's always one person who is an excellent cook—OR... breakfast, lunch or dinner is split up between different people. There's the camp bartender. There's usually one "jokester." And of course, there are the "nicknames." No one should ever take these nicknames personally. All in good fun.

The meals are often extremely elaborate. Like dining in a Michelin-rated restaurant-- and that's no kidding. Some wonderful food. Remember being in the woods all day in the cold will surely conjure up one heck of an appetite. There's always lots of emphasis on the "new kid on the block"--The person who is attending the particular deer camp for the first time. The old timers want to see if the new member will carry his own load, do what's expected, and help. There is no "hazing" as such, but cooperation and how this person interacts and works is closely scrutinized--and that goes for relatives as well as friends. No one gets a 'free ride."

Along with the work DURING deer camp, it's important to know how essential it is to maintain the cabin and deer camp site throughout the year. Don't expect to come up to deer camp the night before the season opens and just marvel at how nice things are--it took a year's work to get it into the shape it's in when you get up there.

There's wood cutting for the fire. There's maintaining the cabin and outhouse. There's making sure the cabin is clean and secure, both from the elements and "unwelcome visitors"--animals, bugs, and, sometimes, other people. It's a year round task. No one wants to come up to deer camp and smell old socks, old cigars, stale clothes, or booze, or see dirt, trash and grime all over.

Now it's OK to have "fun and games," but, remember, you're at deer camp to HUNT, as well as have a good time. That means curb your drinking, and behave like a "person"-- not some run amok fool. There may be "cross camp" parties and get-togethers, or "tavern runs."

But the experienced deer camper recognizes how important it is to use common sense. It's tough getting up at dawn or earlier, after falling dead-drunk into your bunk an hour before you have to hit the woods. And of course no sane person wants to hunt with someone who may have, not only a big hangover, but may be slightly "impaired" and carrying a powerful rifle. One good idea is that many camps set aside one night to really party. That is, they reserve a particular night, go all-out for fun, and then sleep in the next day.

Little things count–keeping your gear, including rifle, clothing--all of it, in perfect shape. Clean everything up for the next day--including yourself. No need to worry about having your gun jam at a critical moment--or the deer, or your friends being able to smell you a mile away. Also, make sure if you do hang your deer, that you field dress it immediately, so that if you're at camp for a week, it'll be in good shape when it's time to get it processed.

It's a good idea to find a deer camp that's suitable for YOU and your particular tastes. You may have a lot of good friends who go to deer camp, but you know down deep that their idea of what deer camp should be is not yours. It's real easy to lose friends over spats at deer camp. It happens all the time. While for some, a hunting camp is a way of life, they are not for everyone.

Also, when and if you do to go to a deer camp, there is an almost inviolate "rule' that isn't spoken, but well known. Paraphrasing the popular ad for Vegas, "What happens at deer camp, stays at deer camp."

My name is Caleb and I am obsessed with hunting, fishing, and foraging. To be successful, you have to think like your prey. You have to get into the mind of your target - and understand Big Game Logic. If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at Read more about Big Game Logic.