There are generally two things most males born in Wisconsin have to look forward to from the moment they pop out of their Mommies: 1. You are now, and until the day you die, officially a Green Bay Packer fan, and 2. become a Deer Hunter! Most hospitals put a little blue stocking hats on male babies for the ride home to keep their little heads warm, but if you’re born in a Wisconsin hospital, you leave wearing either a Green and Gold hat with a big letter “G” on the front, or a blaze orange or camouflage hat. Of course if your parents (meaning your Dad) has a great sense of humor, you’ll leave the hospital lobby wearing a cheesehead hat, but only for a second or two until Mommy gives Daddy the “Stink Eye” which he will then immediately take it off. Yes, there are a lot of jokes out there making fun of Wisconsinites and their obsession for the Packers and Hunting, and I’ll share some with you shortly, but rest assured, both are taken very seriously. Growing up in a family of deer hunters, (as I have), hunting in any form is more or less considered some kind of holiday in Wisconsin, and our calendars are marked according to when each season starts, just as most calendars are marked with Christmas, Easter, 4th of July, etc. etc. and preparations for each hunting holiday is just as important as putting up a Christmas tree, and lights around the rain gutters. Although the official start date is the Saturday morning before Thanksgiving, and ends at 4:30 CST on the Sunday after, preping for this 10 day excursion of testosterone induced beer swilling, card playing guy time, usually starts right after Labor Day weekend. All the stores start to lay out the new arrival of blaze orange paraphernalia, and when I mean all the stores, I mean ALL the Stores! You can buy blaze orange hats and gloves at gas stations, spices and liquid smoke to make venision jerkey at all grocery stores, some form of hunting knife at Walgreens and other convenience stores, and hand warmers of all shapes and sizes everywhere! Now throughout the days between September 1st and the week before “Opening Day” as a hunter, you will go down into the basement, unpack your boxes and RubberMaid bins with all your hunting accessories and take inventory. You check for barbwire snags on your pants and jacket and if necessary, beg your wife to carefully sew the rips or tears with blaze orange thread. You then try them on to confirm they still fit, and then decide if you need a bigger belt, need to create a new hole in the same belt, need suspenders, or if you really porked out, a new belt AND suspenders (way to go, ya fat bastard!) Then check your boots and boot liners for mold, spiders, missing socks, loose ammo, and mostly, to see if they still fit. Next check your gloves, make sure they match, (this can be confirmed by your name being on both the right and left hand glove) in black sharpie! Now the underwear, (or Long Johns) as we call them…….. and you can deny up and down swearing you don’t do this, but you do….. you smell them! Why in God’s name do you do that….but you do! Hopefully clean, you fold them back up and set them on their own separate pile. (I suggest you look around the room before you smell them, to make sure no one saw you do that), or God forbid took a picture of you doing that, because you know if they did, it will be on Facebook shortly after! Ok, so the required uniform is in check, now comes the important stuff. Ammo: count the shells with bullets, and remove the empty shells from the boxes. Knife: run your thumb across the blade to check for sharpness, (if it doesn’t scrape any skin off, it needs to be sharpened). Gun: remove from case, (hold it in front of you, admire it’s greatness, take aim at the light bulb on the ceiling, and make that “pow” sound with your mouth pretending to shoot it, ……don’t deny….you all do it! No need to wonder if it needs to be cleaned, if your a true deer hunter, you’ve already cleaned it several times before storing it away, and several times during the summer just to have an excuse to visit it. Make note of any corrections, adjustments, replacements, or add to’s in your “Arsonal of pleasure” and then neatly put everything back in it’s box, bin, or case, and carry it proudly to the basement steps, where it will sit for the next few days before it needs to be moved to the trunk, bed, or trailer of your vehicle……that is, except for your blaze orange pants and jacket, these will be put on hangers and expertly hung on the beam in the garage, or the closeline in the back yard for the next few days to “air out” and remove the “people smell” so the “stupid” deer can’t smell you walking or sitting in the woods! Ya, right….stupid deer….they won’t be able to smell the cigar smoke, B-O, sweat, and chewing tobacco spit that will aerate around your stand throughout the weekend, so to mask these and other nasty oders, you’ll sprinkle a couple drops of “doe in heat”, or doe urine on your boots, and the surrounding trees and bushes (score: hunters 1, stupid deer-0).
Countdown: Thursday before Opening day- going to the store for a week of supplies (ie: beer, brats, ketchup, mustard, pickles, beer, toilet paper, beer, Peppermint Schnapps, beans, buns, tobasco sauce, beer, Mountain Dew, bread, Doritos, pretzels, potato chips, beer, beer, more toilet paper, beer)…..all the essentials, all the necessities. Thursday night, fully packed, everything neatly placed in the trunk of the car like a well organized puzzle, gas tank filled, tires inflated, the only things left to put in the car, is the food, (that goes in the back seat) with the cooler of beer for easy reach for the ride up North. Go to sleep, dream of 12-point bucks jumping over fences.
Friday: Upon waking up and servicing your wife, it’s time to pack the food, beer, and of course, the Blaze Orange Jacket! Some wonder, “why for the love of God was it not packed in the trunk with the rest of the clothes?” Well, the proud deer hunter wants to be recognized on the road, on the way up to woods, I mean how would anyone know they are a “deer Hunter” if they can’t see the Blaze Orange” in the back seat? Answer: Because 1 out of every 2 vehicles on the road that day heading North is full of deer hunters, no need to advertise, but there are the select few that feel the need, the urge, to let everyone know, including their fellow hunters who they are, and where they’re going. They are proud to be one of over 700,000 heading at least 50 miles north of Milwaukee, most will go farther, much farther. What should take 2 -4 hours to get to the hunting camp, will take 4-8 hours with all the extra stops. Stops to the gas station for bathroom breaks, ice for the beers, beef jerkey, etc. Then there are the pub crawls, the endless stops at multiple corner dives in every little town on the way up checking out the bulletin boards with the pictures of what seemed like steroid induced bucks shot during bow season, 12, 14, 16 point racks. Enough to give a dog a bone, and keep the average hunter drooling. Then there are the secretive stops to the unmarked but well known “Adult Book Stores” for extra reading material in between games of Pinochle and Sheepshead. That’s right, the ride up to the deer camp is just as much a ritual as hunting itself.
Deer Camp: Consists of several hunters, mostly related or life long friends, some bringing their newly licensed first year rookie kids, and the same veterans (Dads, Uncles, Cousins, Brother in laws), back together with their team, the gang, the Posse. Unpacking preping for dinner, hanging the Blaze Orange at the door, guns in cases standing against one wall, pictures of monster bucks ripped from Field and Stream, and crudely taped on the walls like cheesy Motivational posters. The constant popping sounds of another can of beer opening, bags of chips ripped in half and placed in the middle of the main dining table for everyone to stick their nasty dirty nose picked fingers in, then pinching the crumbs together and dipping them in cartons of a sour cream and onion soup mix concoctions. The unwelcomed yet continuous sounds and smells of men passing gas uncontrollably and laughing hysterically after each one, and high fiving each other if one lasts longer than 3 seconds, and the oder lasts more than 3 minutes. Then after dinner, when it’s dark out, half the group moves the plates and dishes to the sink, and commences dealing cards all over the greasy food splattered table, while the rest of the group (usually the younger guys) climb into the biggest vehicle in the camp, and proceeds to drive at 20 miles an hour while the guy in the front passenger seat rolls down the window, and with a 1 billion candle light flashlight, shines the light across the fields looking for the reflective glow of deer eyes. Checking out the tops of their heads for any shimmer of antler. then reaching over the top of the vehicle to shine on the other field, occasionally hitting the rear view mirrors and blinding everyone inside to screams of cursing and name calling.
After shining about 50 deer with 48 of them being doe, and the other two having 6 or less points on their antlers, the group heads back to camp all jazzed up as if they were at a hometeam football pep rally. Back inside the Shack, trailer, cottage, hovel, whatever, the guys at the make shift card table are now buzzed, screaming and swearing at each other as they slap card after card in the middle of the table, closing each hand with a middle finger in someone’s face, and totally degrading their manliness, size of genitallia or lack thereof, ability to produce offspring of a non-incestual nature, and in a round about loving way that only deer hunters can do, calling out each others wives, mother in laws, and girlfriends and congratulating each other on how many times and different ways they’ve defiled them…..all in jest, with good natured ribbing, not taken seriously, no one officially offended, and seeing who can outdo each other with yet another round of high fives and middle finger pointing. All the while this is going on, the beat up 25 year old boom box with AM/FM radio and cassette only is blaring the sweeet sounds of “Da Yoopers” and “Tirty Point Buck” over and over and over again, with one or two of the guys knowing every word to every song by heart, and everyone else snickering knowing these big Dufus’s obviously listen to this one-time-a year music, all year long! Then there’s the guy who slips in an old self-recorded mixed tape of 60’s country music, 70’s Disco, 80’s hair bands, and a couple Polkas to cleanse the palate. By this time, no one is really listening anyway due to the arguing of score totalling from the last card game, and screams of Bullsh*t and F-you drown out the fuzzy sounding music.
At around 11pm, at least one veteran hunter sets the alarm clock for 4:30am although this is not needed, as the internal biological alarm clock of a deer hunter will go off automatically, and a few brave souls step outside in the below freezing air and attempt to pee their names in the snow (yet another contest) to see how many letters the winner can write in full stream and not in final drips….with yet another hunting ritual ending in high fives!
As everyone heads off to bed, there is the final back tag check, to make sure it’s on the back of the jacket securely, they climb into bunk beds, sleeping bags, and old army cots, again dreaming of the big buck they plan on getting, and being the first one of the group bagging theirs the earliest, all to an insanely loud chorus of snores, gas passing, and unconscious bodily sounds that would scare the soon to be hunted deer away for miles. Good luck all you crazy bastards!!
The following list compiled by Bruce Cochran and others is a Must Read for all past, present, and future Deer Hunters:
You know you’re a Deer Hunter…….If you’ve ever paid more for a rifle scope, than your spouses wedding ring…….If your job has nothing to do with hunting, but you have a picture of a deer on your business card…….If you own at least one pair of Blaze Orange boxers…….If you have no idea where the meat dept. is in your local supermarket…….If you where blaze orange or cammo to the office on casual Fridays…….If your video library consists of Monster Bucks Volume 1-5…….If the bumber sticker on your vehicle says, “My kid shot a buck while your honor student was in school.” …….If you instinctively wake up at 4:30 am without setting an alarm…….If you take all your vacation and sick days during deer season…….If you send Christmas cards with pictures of deer on them to all your non-hunting friends, (if you have any)…….If you own the following: Coffee cups, cocktail glasses, a ball point pen, a pocket knife, thermometer, a clock, 10-Tshirts, 25-baseball caps, 4-belt buckles, a deck of playing cards, a waste basket, and a mouse pad, all with pictures of deer on them……..If Dominant Buck Urine is your favorite cologne…….If you make your wife drive on long road trips so you can watch for deer out the side window……..If your wife calls you deaf, yet you can hear a twig snap a quarter mile away……..If you have a stack of hunting magazines taller than the toilet in the bathroom……..If you and your friends go looking for girls at Cabela’s……..If you’re turned on by a woman who can field dress a deer……..If you have more stuffed animals than your kids……..If you plan your wedding date between the hunting seasons……..If you plan childbirth to fall between hunting seasons……..If your screen saver on your computer is a picture of a deer……..And last but not least, if you name your first born “Buck” even if it was a girl.