Sharing Deer Camp Family Traditions
Kevin Felts 12.05.16
The hunting camp may seem barbaric to outsiders. This is a group of people who go into the wilderness and kill wild animals. It is so much more than that. These are people from different backgrounds, different religions, rich, middle class, poor, just every demographic you can think of brought together to share a family tradition.
These groups are called different names, but they are same same thing. They are a group of people who are hunting an area of land. Common names may include: deer camp, hunting lease, hunting camp, etc. Different areas of the nation may have different names.
The Deer Camp
At heart of every hunting lease is the deer camp, also called a hunting camp. This is where hunters meet to check in their harvested deer, show off any hogs that were harvested, and tell hunting stories.
Regardless of background, race, creed, or religion, everyone is there for pretty much the same thing: to hunt. Some are taking their kids on their first hunt, some are parents whose children are grown, and some are grand parents taking the grand kids hunting.
The deer camp is where traditions are passed down from one generation to another.
There is usually an opening weekend tradition. At the deer camp I was part of, we roasted a wild hog the Friday night of opening weekend. A couple of hunters would set out hog traps a few days before opening weekend. The trapped hogs would be fed and watered until Friday. Then they would be butchered and cooked.
Big Buck Potluck was another tradition. Hunters wanting to join would put $20 each into the pot. Whoever brought in the biggest buck would get the pot at the end of the year.
Thanksgiving and Christmas would consist of cooking a turkey or two. Everyone who was at the lease would bring something to eat. There would be all kinds of cookies, sausages, turkey, ham, pies, maybe some wild hog, and maybe some deer meat.
We did fish fries on closing weekend. A couple of guys on the lease live near Lake Sam Rayburn. While they were not hunting they would run trotlines and catch catfish. The fish fry was locally caught catfish from Lake Sam Rayburn, hush puppies, tater tots, and a variety of chips, dips, cookies and pies.
If a young person came into camp with a small deer, a bad word was never said. Members gathered round to congratulate the young hunter. If the deer was a doe, something like, “Maybe next year it will be a big eight point!!” would be appropriate.
The hunting lease I was on, we were expected to follow a family-friendly code of conduct.
Getting drunk in the presence of others was not tolerated. Adults were expected to drink in moderation and refrain from cursing. This was to set a good example for children.
Absolutely no drugs of any kind were allowed on the lease.
When someone drank, they were not to handle firearms. Firearm safety was an absolute must.
Anyone acting in an unsafe manner with firearms or setting a bad example for children was reprimanded by other members.
The biggest smiles I have ever seen were from daughters, who had taken their first deer with their dad.