by Mark Walters
Four Decades as a Red Brush Hunter
Forty-two years ago my dad, the late Robert Walters, included me in his version of deer camp for the first time. Back then my brothers Mike, Tom, Dad, and myself called a canvas tent, a Coleman Lantern, stove, and a kerosene heater our home for a few days each deer gun hunting season while we hunted in the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.
As soon as I graduated from high school back in ‘79 I realized that I had to spend a lot of time at this place and began upgrading “camp”.
This week’s column is about The Red Brush Gang building camp and life as an outdoor adventures writer in his busy season with some pretty nasty leg injuries.
Saturday, November 8th
High 42, low 26
Our living quarters at deer camp, which is built on public land each fall, has graduated from a tent to a camper to a shack built onto the camper to what it is today and that is a 26×18 foot take down pole barn that we have built in six foot sections complete with windows, insulated walls, a propane system that powers five lights and a cook stove, two woodstoves, and 16 bunk beds.
Today is the day that we build camp and cut the seasons firewood, until this year it was always a challenge to get this done in one day and be able to sleep up to 22 people in the shack that night.
The Red Brush Gang has 17 kids that range from 12 to 25. Back when the now 25 year olds were only 16 and the now 12 year olds were only 3, they were basically no help building camp. Our camp rule has always been that as soon as you are out of diapers you can come to camp building weekend, which is actually a whole bunch of fun.
Jump a head to this year and these kids are actually major helpers and someday will allow for us old timers, which there are like six of us left, to sit on a lawn chair and watch the work take place.
My job is to take two people and cut as much firewood as our eternal campfire and woodstoves will consume. My buddy, Doug Cibulka (high school/one year younger) and 17-year-old Nate Moll are generally the guys that haul the firewood as I cut it.
Nate is a senior at Niagara High School, just made Defensive Player of the Year for his combined schools football team and was All Conference on both sides of the ball, hauling firewood for Nate Moll is not a challenge! Nate has definitely graduated past the diaper stage.
As I mentioned earlier I have some leg injuries, first it was a nasty sprained ankle and torn calf muscle. That was two months ago and this week my knee on the same leg went to heck in a hand basket (the next time I wrestle college kids, o wait, my wrestling days are done). Have you ever tried running a chainsaw while dropping and declimbing an oak tree on one leg? Scary and painful!
Today everyone in camp pulled their own weight and at dark the shack was up, the lights were lit and the bunk beds were built. Tonight we had our annual, we built it celebration, why was I still up at 4:00 a.m.?
Wednesday, November 13th
High 42, low 23
This column is dedicated to anyone that has health issues and still try’s to get it done in the outdoors. On Sunday, I could hardly walk and was very ill. On Monday I made another visit to the Necedah Clinic. There was concern of a blood clot, because I did not have a bad knee and perhaps a clot had traveled from the calf to the knee. After an ultra sound and a blood test and a cat scan there was good and bad news. The bottom line is that my busy season combined with the results of a vicious attack by them college boys is kicking my behind.
Today, I explored in the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge and attempted to carry a bow, portable tree stand, and climbing sticks. I got the job done and fell a whole bunch because I do not lift my leg as high as I thought I was lifting it and then tripped over branches that I thought I had lifted my leg over.
On Tuesday, I had two unique experiences coming up. In the morning I am seeing a specialist for my leg. In the afternoon, I am driving south to a beef farm and with help, will attempt to catch some very wild Hereford calves which I am purchasing and hauling home in my truck.
I do not think my new doctor is going to appreciate my lifestyle! Gimpy, I mean. Sunset
THIS WEEK’S COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Ormson’s SuperValu