MAY LAKE — For someone who was never successful as a deer hunter, I should consider deer camp to be a curse.
My first year at deer camp came in 1967, as a 10-year-old. I can remember that first drive with my dad and brother George to May Lake and the cabin of Butch and Gloria Harris – my uncle and aunt. On the way to camp during a time when the deer population was not nearly as plentiful as it is today, I can remember dad stopping as we watched a buck and a doe standing in a field.
Being a youngster in camp meant certain responsibilities. The dishes did not clean themselves and trips down to the water pump for buckets of water became routine. So did some smart aleck hunter who would invariably warn me to watch for bears. That had me shaking in my boots as I pumped water while an accomplice who also was scared of bears would shine the flashlight in the woods searching for creatures.
There were several boys who were too young to hunt and we would mess around in the cabin yard as we awaited the hunters’ arrival back to camp. We would search the faces of the returning hunters for any sign of success and we would cheer when a deer was hoisted on the pole for future consumption.
Nights in the camp were pure bliss. The youngsters in camp would listen to the stories of hunters as they told of the deer they shot, or the deer that they missed.
The Saturday night supper was always the highlight as the more than 30 people who hunted out of the May Lake camp got together for a great meal.
Following the meal and dishes, the youngsters in camp would watch the elders play cards. The shuffling of the cards would go on deep into the night as friends and relatives relished the fact that they were at deer camp.
As the years passed, I started hunting – if you want to call it that. I started hunting in about the eighth grade and I was pumped to get a deer through my high school years. After I returned from the U.S. Army, I would only hunt one day a year – on the opener – and I never did harvest a deer.
While it gets me to cringe when the fact that I never shot a deer is brought up, the years have softened the sting and I can laugh with the hunters. After all, a few of the hunters shot just one deer in their careers so it wasn’t like they were Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett.
This year I watched the young blood of the camp, remembering when I was their age. I hope they have the memories that I have gathered throughout the years.