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Hunting Camp

By Russ Van Orman

What makes a hunting camp? Many articles have been written about how to setup a hunting camp but few have been written about what really makes a hunting camp. I have stayed in variety of hunting camps everything from  a make shift lean-to to a log cabin in the woods.

The first item you should keep in mind is location, location, location… Your camp should be fairly close to the game you are hunting but not to close. For example a few years go friends and I setup camp in an area that should have had elk in it.   However, after two days of hunting hard we learned from locals that the elk had moved out of the area and were migrating about 40 miles from camp. We had st up a 14 by 20 wall tent and unloaded all our gear. To break camp and repack the gear would take a day and out of a 7 day hunt with two days all ready spent we elected to drive an hour and half to locate the elk. Needless to say we didn’t get much sleep and in the end we struck out. So if we would have done a little more home work and figured in the weather, I am sure we would have had a successful experience. Another time we were hunting Montana, when we arrived it was a bright sunny day with about a foot of snow on the ground. We choose a beautiful spot at the end of a valley and made camp. That evening the wind came blowing down the valley off the mountain, and blew the tarp off the wall tent along with breaking the pongee cords that held it down. Try putting a tarp back on in 30 plus mile an hour winds with snow at night after hunting all day.  I can guarantee you’ll appreciate where you locate the camp under those circumstances. However, we did research where the game was located and were successful in our quest.

Second gear, if you think you’ll need it you probably will. Depending on the time of year do not skimp on warm clothes as long as room will allow. If you’re hunting from a base camp that you can drive to, room shouldn’t be a problem. In fact many times I have stored my extra clothes in my rig until needed. However, if you’re traveling in the back country where space is limited you’ll need to pack with care. A good rule is to pack so you can dress in layers as the weather allows. If you need a list to follow many reputable outfitters will have list of items to bring on their websites. If you’re hunting with an outfitter follow their guidance on what gear to bring.

Third the camp; depending on where and when you’re hunting an RV, camper or trailer are good bets. My preference is a trailer once it is leveled and un-hitched you have your rig to drive around the back country. However, if you’re going to be driving in snow and ice a trailer can be a handful. An RV is a nice option if you don’t mind towing an SUV or truck behind it. A camper takes a little more time to setup and overall it has less space than the other two. My favorite is a wall tent if weather is an issue because they have lots of room, can be easily be set up with three to four guys, warm with a stove and are easily transported. Smaller tents are nice depending on the type and where you’ll be hunting. Keep in mind many of the smaller tents, however; lack heating capability unless you’re willing to transport and use one of the many propane heaters on the market.

Now putting those aside, a “Cabin” is a luxury and hunting from one is a pleasure. Why, because a hot shower is always nice after a hard day in the woods and no setup is required.  A nice fireplace is a plus, too. Many hunting camps in the East and Midwest are structures that are hunted out of year after year and provide excellent shelter. I have deer hunted in upstate New York out of a double wide trailer that was converted to “cabin” we had a wood burning stove, propane for lighting and cooking, with a pool table for good measure.

The final ingredient in making you’re hunting camp is you’re hunting buddies. A wise man once said “friends are like sponges once you squeeze all their quirks out their still your friends” Keeping that in mind we all have friends that year after say they would like to go with you but every year they come up with excuses of why they can’t go. For these individuals, just talk about your trip and tell them to let you now when they are seriously interested in going and leave it to that.  Some of the same attributes that you appreciate in friends should translate into the same for your hunting buddies like are they dependable?  Are they SAFE when handling firearms? Do they know your limitations and do you know theirs? Are they fun? And will they do their share of camp chores?

Dependability – I hunted two deer seasons with one individual and every time I harvested buck, he would come over and look at it then say “I’ll go get the car “. He never offered once to help me drag my deer out. An extra pair of hands would have been helpful in dragging each of those deer out.

Safety (this is the most important), I hunted with one individual for a very short time who when making point would point his loaded gun at you……I came down with a strange “illness” after the first ½ hour and then drove to another hunting area to hunt by myself.

You should know if your buddy(s) have any type medical conditions and be prepared to help if need be. A few seasons ago, I hunted in Montana with a great friend who has a heart condition. One item we keep in mind was the location of nearest hospital when we decided where to hunt out of.

Enjoy the time you spend in field and in camp with your friends. Hunting can be humbling experience. Are they going to sulk or get mad if they don’t see anything for days or if you harvested something and they don’t? The camp and the hunt should be fun enjoy the time outdoors, in camp and laugh at your misadventures. Sure the goal is to harvest game but you’re on vacation enjoy it!

Chores, well this one I am sure at times we have all neglected or let our buddies to more than their share. If one hunting buddy wants to cook then offer to clean up or help prepare the meals. Everyone is tired after a good day in woods so help each other out. Sharing, of the game should be decided on before you leave on your hunt. Most of time we divide the game evenly among ourselves, if only one or two hunters are lucky enough to harvest game out of the group. The cost of processing should be divided up equally as well.  I had one very good friend who I hunted with for 15 years. In all the time we hunted together he was only able to harvest one buck. It wasn’t that he wasn’t trying he just didn’t have the best of luck. However, I made sure he had some venison steaks every year.

Remember that good hunting buddies make lifetime friends that you can share your adventures with when venturing out into the Deep Countree.