An Invite to Camp
I believe the phrase “I’m really busy,” and other related versions of the statement are a bit overused. That’s not to say that we’re not all busy with one thing or another, but I’ve seen it become a crutch for many looking for an excuse to get out of something, or as a go-to response during a conversation. I’ve been guilty of it too, so I’ve been conditioning myself not to say it when asked how I am, what I’ve been up to, or when I am invited to do something. This came into play a few weeks ago when a friend invited me, my dad and brother to his camp for a weekend of father and son fishing. In my mind I was running through all the reasons I didn’t have time to go, but I was able to force myself to say, “That sounds like a good time. Let me check my schedule and get back to you.”
After several days of back-and-forth and almost making the decision not to go, I thought of a compromise that would allow me to make the trip while also taking care of the things that I needed to. I accepted the invitation to go fishing for the day, with the understanding that I would make the little more than two-hour drive home that evening instead of spending the night. I love to fish and haven’t been able to do it with family and friends in recent years since I lived out of the area. This was a trip I just had to find a way to make happen.
Within minutes of walking into the camp I was thankful for my decision. The guys were just finishing up breakfast and making fun of each other for not making it into a pair of waders yet. Some were sitting at the table drinking coffee and finishing up healthy servings of venison sausage and eggs, and the youngest of the group were scurrying around gathering their fishing gear. A television was playing in the background, but nobody was paying attention. The various fish and game mounts hung on the walls as well as the many crooked and dust-covered photos spanned generations. If you were to imagine the perfect camp setting, this was it.
While we had a great day reeling in both native and stocked trout from the beautiful mountain streams of the area, the memories that will stick with all of us are the great conversations, heaping mounds of unhealthy food and drink, and the general camaraderie that comes with sharing a camp together. This camp has been in my friend’s family for decades and I couldn’t help but think about the hundreds of times it must have been the host of similar gatherings during fishing and hunting seasons of years past. While it is a physical structure, what it represents is far deeper.
I hear a lot of people talking about how the tradition of going to deer camp just isn’t what it used to be. I feel badly about that because I believe reinvigorating those traditions is a crucial component of ensuring a bright future for deer hunting. We need to pass along the traditions that we grew up with, camp or no camp, to those who follow in our footsteps. We also need to walk the walk and make sure we’re seeking our own opportunities when they’re available. While camps are certainly great for building traditions, they’re not necessary. Maybe it’s as simple as making stacks of steaming hot pancakes before a hunt or getting together the night before to watch hunting shows, play cards, and tell exaggerated versions of stories that have already been told dozens of times.
On the drive home I thought about how many times I passed up opportunities to go to camps I’ve been invited to. What missed opportunities! While this was just one short trip, it reconnected me with who I am as an outdoorsman in a sense. As you’re reading this you might be thinking about times that you were “too busy” to go, or thought the hassle wasn’t worth it. Whether you own your own camp or have friends who invite you to theirs, I encourage you to look for all of the reasons that you should go, and remind yourself that the rigors of your daily life will be waiting for you when you return. Take others with you when possible, even if they’re kicking and screaming most of the way. I can’t imagine them not thanking you for it later, and you’ll be doing your part to help pass along the tradition.
My recent trip inspired this week’s survey questions about hunting camps. This week and next we want to know more about your hunting camp experiences and other traditions, as well as your thoughts on the importance of the hunting camp culture to the future of our deer hunting. Do you have a photo from hunting camp, or of a hunting tradition that you’d like to share? If so, I invite you to send them to [email protected]. We’d love to share your photos and stories in upcoming issues of the NDA On Watch newsletter.