First Camping/Hunting Trip Provides Plenty of Lessons

Each time I go hunting or fishing, I’m hoping for a number of things to happen. I’m obviously hopeful that I’m successful in bringing something back home to eat. I’m hopeful that I return home without injury. Last, I’m hopeful that I learn something new from my trip. Some trips are more fruitful that others for all of the aforementioned. This trip provided me with plenty of information to use for the future.

I’ve been looking forward to this since early summer. I made the decision to do most of my hunting this year while spending my nights in the friendly confines of a tent. To some, this will seem like a foolish decision. Even some of my own friends think that I’m crazy to want to stay in a tent during deer season. Others will look at it as an adventure, which is how I view it. This weekend, I learned just what an adventure it can be.

I made it to our camp just in time to set my tent up before dark on Friday. I purchased a new tent this summer just for the upcoming deer season. I also sold my wife on the fact that the kids can’t go camping with my one person backpack tent, so we needed a new one. When it arrived in the mail, I set it up in the backyard to air it out and make sure I knew how to assemble it alone. The kids ended up helping a little bit, and at the time I didn’t realize how detrimental that would be for future solo trips. Putting up the oversized six person tent alone in the sweltering heat was a challenge I hadn’t considered. It took more time than I planned and the sun had completely faded by the time I was finished.

I set up the rest of my “base camp” and cooked a quick meal on my gas stove. I was expecting rain Friday night, so I made sure that I had everything that I didn’t want to get wet covered. I put the rain fly on the tent for the first time so I was keeping my fingers crossed that I did it right, or my night was going to be a miserable one. Cell service was pretty scarce so I couldn’t pinpoint the exact timing of the rain. If you know me, I’m a little bit of a weather snob and like to be precise about the where, when, and how much. Just before 10:00, my questions of “when will the front arrive” were answered. The wind picked up and there was a noticeable change of temperature. Shortly after, the wind really picked up. I estimated that there were gusts approaching 50 mph, and I began to wonder just how stupid I really was for doing this. Fortunately, I received very little rain with the storm, so I’m still not sure that the rain fly works.

When the winds eased up and the initial front passed, I relaxed and went to sleep. The temperature began to drop after midnight and my sleeping bag wasn’t quite warm enough. I put on an extra layer of clothes and dozed back off. Do you know that feeling that you’re being watched? At 4:00 am, I found myself wide awake. I could hear footsteps just outside my tent door. After the rain had passed, I had unzipped the door window for ventilation while I slept. Now, something, or someone, was right outside the door. I carefully reached for my flashlight and shined it at the door. I think I caught her by surprise as much as she caught me. The big doe freaked out at the light and started blowing at me. If neither of us had a heart attack then we both should be alright.

When daylight arrived, I hit the woods. The day was absolutely perfect. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and a breeze kept me cool throughout the day.  My only issue was I couldn’t get a deer within bow range. I saw a few, but none provided me with a shot. During lunchtime, I ran into town to grab a blanket and a couple of other items that I forgot. The previous night taught me that my sleeping bag wasn’t going to cut it alone. That evening, I laid out extra clothes next to my mattress, just in case. It’s a good thing that I did. With temperatures dipping down around 40 degrees, I once again found myself awake and shivering around 2:00 am. My blanket wasn’t cutting it. I reached over and put on my cold weather hunting clothes and got back inside my sleeping bag. I even put on a beanie and neck gaiter. It was possibly the coldest night of my life.

The morning sun couldn’t have come at a better time. I fear that I was close to my breaking point. I headed out to hunt one more time before I had to go home. My stand was situated on an old fence row between bottomland and hills. As the sun got higher, the deer began to move. Once again, I saw a few, but the only one that presented me with a shot opportunity was a young buck. I watched him graze along and disappear into the thick brush. It was so good to be back in the woods.

On the way home, I thought about the lessons learned from the trip. The biggest being, take a better blanket, or get a better sleeping bag. There were a number of items that I brought that I realized I don’t really need, and others that I should have brought, but didn’t. After getting back and unpacking, I am already plotting the next time out. Deer season is finally here.

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