So far this deer season, each trip that I’ve taken to the camp has been a solo trip. I’ve had a different learning experience each time. I’ve proven to myself that I’m capable of going out into the woods and surviving on my own, not that there will ever be a time that calls for that. When you’re alone in the woods, especially at night, you hear each little sound. Your senses are a little sharper than usual. However, even as much as I’ve enjoyed my solo trips, deer camp is much more fun when someone else is there to share it with you.
On Thursday, we had a Thanksgiving meal that can’t be beat. True to my word, not a single piece of turkey was consumed. This year, with my last article a topic of conversation, there was no denying my “No turkey on Thanksgiving” protest. That said, nobody was overly excited with my idea of “Swampsgiving”, but my mother-in-law allowed me to make the deer rolls. The rolls didn’t disappoint and complimented the rest of the meal very well. At least I thought they did, and nobody complained so I’m taking it as a win. Shortly after lunch, I began to prepare for a weekend trip to the deer camp. I packed all of the usual gear and planned to head out the next morning. This time, however, I wanted to do one thing differently.
Chris Coulter, who I’ve mentioned in my articles before, is one of my favorite hunting buddies and is also co-hosting a podcast with me. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, we have a podcast now. Here’s my shameless plug for you to tune into Apple Podcasts or Spotify and listen to the weekly “Pinstripes to Camo Podcast.” On the show, myself, Chris, and my cousin, Hunter McCool, discuss all things outdoors in a lighthearted, conversational way. Back to the story. I called Chris and asked if he’d like to join me on a camping trip to Vicksburg to kill a little time in the woods. To my delight, he was just as excited as I was. Chris and his eight year old son, Mack, would be joining me for my first rifle hunt of the season. Since I had most of the necessary equipment for the trip, they provided the groceries for the weekend. I’m incredibly grateful that they got the groceries instead of me. We ate so much better than we would have.
After we all arrived at the land and set up camp, we headed out to hunt. We both chose box stands on food plots for the evening hunt, and we both saw plenty of deer. The temperature began to drop quickly as the sun faded and deer began to fill up my food plot. Unfortunately, none of them met my standards for the evening. When darkness fell, I picked up Chris and Mack, and we headed back to the camp. Chris lit our fire and began to go to work on dinner. He whipped up some steaks in a skillet and sliced them like fajita meat. He then added bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and brussel sprouts and served it over diced up potatoes that he cooked over the fire’s coals. I don’t know if I was just hungry or if this was the best camping meal that I’d ever eaten. I’m leaning toward it being the best camping meal of all time.
The fire is exactly what I’ve been missing in my solo camping trips. There’s something, other than it keeping you warm, that is comforting and relaxing about a campfire. We sat around the fire for a while talking about our hunts and laughing about experiences from previous years. I enjoyed watching Mack and his father share this moment, and it reminded me of camping experiences with my dad as a kid. This trip was going to be unique, though, because the temperature was going to drop well below freezing for the night. Mack’s sleepy eyes told us it was time for bed so we headed into the tent for the night. The two of them bundled up on an air mattress, and I bunked on a cot that Chris brought. It didn’t take more than a few minutes and I could hear Mack breathing heavy. Chris and I laughed at how easily he went to sleep.
Sleep didn’t come so easy for me and Chris. After finally slipping into a deep sleep, I was suddenly awakened by the sound of an owl. He was so close it seemed like he was on top of our tent. That normally soothing “hoot” was about as annoying as it could possibly be. Finally, the owl left and I drifted off to sleep again, but not for long. I had set up our camp on a ridgeline and later discovered that a buck had made a small scrape just down from the tent. Around 2:30 in the morning, that buck must have come to check it. He couldn’t have been more than 10-15 yards from the tent when he began blowing and stomping. It woke Chris and I both up. The annoyed buck did his thing for a few minutes before finally trotting off into the woods. Back to sleep we went.
My alarm went off and the morning greeted us with ice and frost on everything. We cranked the portable heater up as we got dressed for the morning hunt. The cold air stung as we rode the four wheeler to our destinations. After our morning hunt, we returned to camp and Chris cooked another meal that couldn’t be beat. This time we feasted on deer sausage with peppers and onions. For the first time ever, I gained weight while camping. The trip was topped off when my buddy, Brad, and his friend, Frank, showed up to hunt. The only thing that could have possibly made this trip better would have been one of us killing a big buck.
Alone time is good, and is often needed. The solo trips that I’ve taken have been as much therapeutic as they have been anything else. On the other hand, this is probably my favorite hunting trip that I’ve taken in a long time, if not ever. Good food, good friends, and watching a father teach his son about the outdoors is hard to beat. I hope there is more of that going on than I realize, because the world needs more dads taking their kids camping and hunting.