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Deer Camp Diaries

Photo by Tom Fegely

If you changed the names, you would swear you know the people involved.

By Tom Fegely

One of the predictable joys of the annual deer camp is the sharing of buck tales, stories from yesterday and today written for posterity’s sake in the camp logbook or revived as each year’s hunt takes shape.

Whether in a remote, mountain country deer camp or hunting from back home, truth is often funnier than fiction when stories of the hunt are shared.

Up a Tree

A tale shared by an Ohio friend proves that everyone, sooner or later, runs into embarrassing situations – such as Carl. It seems Carl had used a hang-on treestand and screw-in steps to work his way some 20 feet up a straight-trunked tulip poplar on opening morning.

He saw but one doe all morning, and as noon approached, Carl decided to head back to his truck for lunch and to share the morning’s happenings with a couple friends. That’s when he discovered that his lift rope had fallen from the treestand. The rifle was unloaded and hung on a step by its sling, abiding by all the tenets of treestand safety. Carl figured he would descend and retrieve the rope, then climb back up for his gun.

So far, so good.

As Carl stepped to the ground he casually glanced over his shoulder. There, standing next to the deadfall on which Carl had dripped some deer urine early that morning, stood a 6point buck watching his every move.

But, alas, Carl’s rifle was hanging 20 feet overhead, far out of reach. The buck flicked its tail, stared at the flustered hunter for a few seconds, then slowly trotted off, pausing and looking back once more at the hapless hunter who couldn’t quite believe what had just happened.

Dumb and Dumber

Some stories rank right up there in the dumb and dumber category, such as this one which took place about 20 years ago when a deer infected with rabies was discovered in south-central Pennsylvania.

A rookie archer in his treestand near the Maryland border had obviously read the news stories about the deer, which was on his mind a month or so later as dusk approached. With less than 10 minutes of shooting time remaining, he spotted two nervous-looking does hurriedly walking his way. Seconds later a buck appeared, running in circles with his head drooped and his nose tracing the ground wherever the does had run.

Through his binocular, however, our hero noted that something was amiss. The camo-clad bowman later admitted that he was relatively inexperienced in whitetail lore and was ready to take a shot when he noticed that the deer’s neck was swollen, its eyes had “a real funny look” and the nervous buck paused several times, opened his mouth and snorted like a pig.

He added that the rabid buck also paused to thrash a leafy bush with his antlers, as if possessed by some inner demon.

Sweet Dreams of Big Bucks

I’ve been to dozens of deer camps over the years and can safely claim there’s not a camp in the big woods that doesn’t have a resident sleeper.

A hunting companion of mine tells the story of Fred, the camp’s official Rip Van Winkle. Over the years, practically everyone in camp has caught Fred taking 40 winks when he should have been wide-eyed and alert. A recent season saw Fred head to his favored post overlooking a broad field of rye and clover in northern Virginia farmland. He was accompanied by Chris, a new deer camp member who planned to hunt nearby.

Subscribe Today!About an hour into the hunt, Chris noted movement and focused his binocular on Fred, who appeared to be sitting stone still across the field. Not far away a buck and a doe were cutting through a thicket, closing in on Fred. Anticipating being witness to Fred’s first kill in at least a dozen years, Chris watched intently, awaiting the roar of the old-timer’s .3006 as the deer slowly walked from the brush and into an opening not 40 yards from Fred.

But all remained silent, and within a few minutes the deer melted into the woods, leaving only a fresh set of tracks in the frozen snow and Chris’s testimony of what he’d witnessed. Alas, good-natured Fred again became the target of teasing and taunting thanks to his ill-timed sleeping habits.

Thus come dreams of big bucks and the stuff of legends.

Deer Sign

Another unforgettable buck tale took place nearly 30 years ago when a New Jersey hunter wrote a letter to the Pennsylvania Game Commission thanking the agency for placing signs along the road showing the best places to get a deer.

It seems the hunter parked next to a yellow deer crossing sign in the Pocono Mountains bearing the familiar leaping buck silhouette. He then walked a short distance into a nearby gamelands woods where he promptly shot a buck. As it was only a short drag back to his vehicle, the hunter was especially complimentary of the commission’s considerations in posting the signs.

Such are the rewards of learning to read deer sign.

This article was published in the August 2006 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

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