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An Outdoorsman’s Journal – 12-3-2014

by Mark Walters

A Place Called Fall Camp

Hello friends,

This week I am writing to you about my version of hunting camp and what has evolved into The Red Brush Gang, deer camp.

Tuesday, November 18th
High, 22, low 6

Is it really November? I cannot remember the last time I saw 32 degrees, you can ice fish and my firewood pile is taking a big hit, 40-days before Christmas.

These are the thoughts that I had as I drove to “new country” which is state land in northern Juneau County that is located about 10-miles from The Red Brush Gangs shack.

This fall I trapped wolf and really covered some miles and something that I learned is that in this part of Wisconsin, anyways, the whitetail deer are in pockets, some here, none there!

While I was trapping muskrat, I saw a couple of my friends checking traps one day and they told me about the place that I will be writing about today, and for the next couple of weeks. I came in here last weekend with my daughter, Selina and Jamie Bistodeau and deer sign was plentiful.

Today, I carried a ladder stand over my left shoulder and a bow in my right hand. My plan was to hunt in the stand this afternoon and then leave it hidden in the woods for Selina to use.

My hike was a half a mile and pretty physical. I was thirty-yards from the tree that we picked out for Selina, when a beautiful 8-point buck stood up from it’s bed no more then 20-yards away and did not have a clue of my presence.

Without the stand on my shoulder, he was in my freezer, buck on the pole. By putting the stand down, I knew he would see movement and vanish. I actually knocked an arrow with the ladder stand over my shoulder and then decided it was a bad choice and watched the buck walk and then trot away.

At dark, I hiked back to my truck and drove to camp, which in this case is a 26×38 foot portable pole barn that The Red Brush Gang built at my house about 8-years ago and comes in 6-foot sections and each November we put it up on public land.

Tonight, 48 hours before 16 members pull into camp and more come and go as the season progresses, I was alone at camp and prepared a huge meal for the first day of deer camp.

Each adult member cooks one day and has no more kitchen duties the rest of the season. I have day one and made a big batch of scalloped potatoes and ham, a rice hot dish, with goose, wild turkey, moose and venison in it and squash for a side dish. A large potion of this very tasty meal is grown on my property or harvested while hunting.

The floor at deer camp is the earth. We have 17 bunks, five propane lights, two wood stoves and four truckloads of dried firewood for the eternal campfire and wood stoves.

At first it was cold, dark, and wet at camp. Moisture from snow had condensated through the plastic tarp roof and everything was pretty wet. Soon the wood stove and propane lights warmed the shack and I sat back and enjoyed a cold beer.

This is my 43rd year at this camp that my father started and I have never missed an opener. When I was a boy it was just dad, my brothers, Tom and Mike, and shortly after my good buddy Jeff Moll. We stayed in a canvas tent, generally froze our butts off and always had a blast.

When I had my “life change” back in ’87 (I attempted to canoe up the Mississippi River). I bought a 17-foot camper with my brother Mike and that became deer camp.

The next year I stayed at what was now “fall camp” for 100-days and put a wooden framed addition with plastic sheeting for the walls on the camper.

It was in this era that The Red Brush Gang started growing in a big way, but for the most part almost everyone had the tie in of having gone to Poynette High School.

I started writing this column that year for The Poynette Press and Fall Camp was my home from mid September until mid January.

I had trails on the nearby marshes that I kept shoveled off and I would ice skate at night and also cross country ski. I never skated or skied here in the daylight. During the day I would sleep in, then either ice fish or bowhunt, then I would skate and ski.

I was making ten bucks a week writing for the Poynette Press and Fall Camp was a huge way to keep expenses down.

I have no cares about monster bucks. I like to harvest them but am plenty happy with a fork horn and way happier at the dinner table.

These days it seems like most of my goals center around these girls having a good hunt and the gang having a blast.

My goals are generally met!  Sunset