As November quickly slips by, many hunters are making plans and packing up the camper to head to higher ground for the annual opening of the West Virginia firearms deer season.
Growing up in the four bow hunting only counties, it was an annual migration that was looked forward to every year for the week of Thanksgiving.
Like the swallows of Capistrano, hunters from all over the southern part of the state were packing up their campers filled with every piece of hunting and camping equipment imaginable. They were heading for the mountains or places up “north” to bag that buck.
For many, spending Thanksgiving at deer camp, or just returning from it, was and still is as much a part of the holiday tradition as the turkey and dressing on the table. The hunters of my family still converge from all over the state on our happy hunting ground in the rolling hills of Monroe County to spend the week chasing those heavy antlered bucks with our long range weapons.
Bow hunting is nice, but to really get one, you have to be able to reach out and “touch” them at long range. Granted, the privilege to use a firearm was a big reason we made the multiple hour drive, but possibly the most important part of it was the adventure itself and the friends and family along the way.
Each year you see people that you haven’t seen since the previous November at deer camp. Even though the faces were different, the story was basically the same. People from all over the state, and even neighboring states, making the trek to hallowed hunting ground the same way they have for years.
Back in my younger days we didn’t have the social media platforms of today, so you may not hear a peep from those long lost friends for an entire year, but when you ran into them at the local watering hole or grocery store at deer camp it was just like you hadn’t seen them in a couple of days.
You saw the farmers whose land you were hunting on and you talked to the guys in the next camp across the ridge to see how they had done so far in hunting this year. It was all part of the hunting camp community.
A lot of things have changed since those days, but luckily, most of what happens at deer camp hasn’t. It is still the quest to bag the big one, and provide meat for the family, but it is so much more.
It is standing around a camp fire eating warmed up venison chili or stew, recounting the days hunt and catching up with friends and family you haven’t seen in a while. It is even hanging out at the local diner or check in station looking at all the fine bucks that have been taken and maybe even showing one off.
The days of the true check in station may be over with the advent of electronic check in, but you can rest assured there will still be time and gathering places near deer camp to see all those hunters you haven’t seen in a while and share stories of the hunt.
So as the buck firearm season gets closer and closer, many hunters get prepared to make their annual pilgrimage to their hunting camps. It isn’t all about killing that buck. Many times it is about deer camp itself and not necessarily the hunting done there.
Look around while you are at deer camp this year, and I bet there is at least one guy who shows up each year and rarely ever leaves camp. He is still there and I will guarantee you that he is having just as much fun as anyone else in camp.
Sure we would all like to take that wall hanger buck, but it is often about much more than that. It is about the memories made and the good times with good friends that make deer camp special, and that is something that many hunters will be thankful for on that first Thursday of the rifle season and for many seasons beyond that.
So for those of you heading off to deer camp for a few days, or just for a few hours, enjoy it. Memories made there are special ones all outdoorsmen and women treasure forever.
Good luck out there and even if you don’t bag the big one, as long as you come home with good memories consider the trip a success!