-By Randy Cooper
With holidays just around the corner, I thought I’d lighten things up with some stories from my hunting camp. I’ve been thinking about all the years I’ve been deer hunting and some of the insane things I’ve done and people I’ve run into. I’ve shared a deer camp with just about every kind of person you can imagine. I’ve learned a lot of lessons from the experiences I’ve shared with them. You have to be about half crazy to hug a tree trunk in 40 mph winds or go out in sub-freezing temps on purpose to pursue your passion.
One of the first lessons I learned is that if you play a joke on someone, prepare for retaliation. We have always tried to be safe at deer camp. We made an elaborate box that sat up off the ground on 4 X 4 posts about chest high. It had a locking door on it that had a topo map of the property overlaid with everyone’s stand location inside. Hunters were required to sign in and mark their stand location along with the time. That way, if they were unusually late, we would know where to search for them. I was in a dollar store one day and saw a rubber snake that looked just like a copperhead. That little light bulb turned on above my head and an idea was born. I waited until my friend Steve and I were going hunting together in early September. It was hot and snakes were crawling. We signed in at the box as usual and went to our stands. I looped back around and put the rubber snake in the box. I got out of my stand early and hid in the bushes to see what would happen when Steve opened the box to sign out. Needless to say, Steve was quite surprised. I’ve never heard a grown man scream so loud!
The snake went missing after that only to wind up on Jon’s third screw-in tree step from the ground at his favorite stand site. He didn’t fall far when he reached for the step and got a hand full of rubber snake in the dark. He was a little rattled though and he chased me around the camp as well. I was afraid to go to sleep in the same camp with those two after all that. I got to thinking that I would wake up in the middle of the night with a LIVE copperhead in my sleeping bag! They tried to get me back in a different way.
Jon and Steve both know about me fascination with Bigfoot. I bought a 4-wheeler that year. Man, I thought this was the answer to everything. Boy was I in for a rude awakening. Instead of walking to my stands anymore, I could now ride at about 30 mph. I didn’t sweat or wear myself out either. We did well that year. During the holidays we piled up at my house to exchange gifts. I was in for the surprise of my life. The last gift given was from Jon to me. It felt heavy. Just before I opened the crudely wrapped package Jon asked, “You remember where we always parked and unloaded the 4-wheelers? On about 20 different occasions I left you something that I just knew you would eventually find, but you never did. Now you can open the package.” What I found stunned me beyond words. There were two BIGFOOT TRACKS that he had spent hours honing to perfection with a die grinder. They looked absolutely real, a matched pair. He said that for the entire season he had put the tracks in the sand where he knew I would go. Where we unloaded, the entrance to the trails that led to my stand sites, everywhere!
I never once saw them. We laughed so hard that I thought I was going to pass out. What I learned from this lesson was that when I got the four-wheeler, I went from A to B without seeing, hearing or sensing anything. All I had on my mind was my destination, nothing else. I was a victim of tunnel vision in the worst way. I finally sold the ATV and began once again to read the book on the forest floor. It was another hard lesson learned, but a fun one.
I’ve just scratched the surface of the crazy things I’ve been a part of in deer camp. It’s been hilarious. I wouldn’t advise doing any of the above, but I wouldn’t change a thing that’s happened either. Your luck might not be as good as mine was. My wish for all who read this is that you can have FUN while pursuing your passion like we have. The friends and memories you make and times you share in deer camp last a lifetime. I know mine will.