Hunting season brings along a special gift: deer camp

Nathan Grigereit, Assistant Opinion Writer

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The empty town of Sidnaw, Michigan has been around since 1889. It was founded as a town based around the lumber industry.

The lumber industry had mostly died off in the area, but something new popped up in its place –  the Upper Peninsula deer camp.

One such deer camp is the Sidnaw Hilton. The camp itself was founded around the time of the 1930’s in the Porcupine mountains. The camp slowly moved south and east until it reached the town of Sidnaw. The camp now resides in a cabin, built in 1992, deep into the wilderness near the Sturgeon River Gorge in the Ottawa National Forest.

The camp members range from farmers, to retired nuclear submarine captains, to environmental scientists.

On Saturday, Nov. 12 the first members of the camp arrived around 3 p.m. The other members of the camp would arrive the next day.

The camp started two days before deer season began. It was fairly uneventful, with the members of the camp unpacking or scouting out the spots they wanted to hunt when the season starts. This day and the next day were really focused around getting ready for the week ahead and relaxing and enjoying the outdoors.

The first day of season was completely different than the two previous days. Instead of sleeping in until 8 or 9, the members of the camp got up at five in the morning. Breakfast was eaten fairly quickly; we had bacon, eggs, and a camp specialty, oatmeal pancakes. After breakfast everybody in the camp got ready in a speedy manner and were soon on their way.

In total, the most deer were seen on opening day.

As the day turned into evening, the rifle rack slowly filled up, which represented the ending of the day for each hunter one by one. By sundown, everyone was back at the cabin and out of their hunting gear.

Each night at camp was filled with laughter, stories, and the occasional political discussion. The conversations the group had were usually civilized. Conversations would range from topics like clean energy to maple syrup.

Everyone at camp got together for the most part and everyone was friendly to each other.

“I had the chance to work with farmers who went to the Upper Peninsula to go deer hunting, and we always, as children, found that to be very exciting,” said Bob Speer, 67, from Ludington, Mich. “One group of farmers in particular talked to me many times about that and invited me to come up to the Upper Peninsula deer hunting when I was 14, 15, 16, and 17,”

“Those years were very fun years and I shot my first deer when I was 15,” said Speer.

“I went into the Navy and for many years I could not go deer hunting. In 1988, I came back to hunt with my farmer friends,” said Speer.

“Since that time it has been an annual event that I’ve always cherished and enjoyed participating in.” Unlike most of the other camp members, Speer has to make a longer journey to go to camp. He currently resides in Hawaii which makes the trip all that more special that he gets to see his old buddies again.

“For me there are three things that are important about deer hunting. The most important thing is the camaraderie of the camp, the second most important thing to me is being able to spend time in the wilderness with the solitude of mother nature, and then, if i’m luck,y I see a deer and in an infrequent occasion I’m able to shoot a deer,” said Speer.

Speer’s love of the camp life, the people, and the wilderness keeps him coming back as much as possible. But one of the most important things that keeps him coming back is the camaraderie.

“Regarding the camaraderie and why that’s so important is each individual that comes gets to be like a family member and while we don’t see each other very often, maybe once or twice a year, it’s still an update and I care about all of the members and what they do. But then there’s always some camp camaraderie fun and usually somebody tries to play a trick or two on somebody else, there’s always a little “Hocus-pocus” and a little bit of trickery that goes on to add to the enjoyment of the fun of camp life.” says Speer.

To Bob Speers, the camaraderie of this deer camp makes it especially unique. The friendship that each member holds for one another truly gives you a feeling that you are welcome and that feeling also makes you feel as if you are almost right at home.

Not everyone is as enthusiastic as Bob Speer when it comes to deer camp, but the different experiences that everyone has makes deer camp all that more special.

Even though only one deer was shot this year, we still got to enjoy being in good company with friends and we were still able to have a good time. The friendships, camaraderie, and mischief of deer camp truly make it one of the most enjoyable and carefree events of the year, but you have to remember one important rule while there:

“What happens at deer camp, stays at deer camp.”

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