Caribou Gear

Are Deer Camps Dying?

3855WIN

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Jul 17, 2014
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Mississippi
 

Steiny

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Sep 4, 2003
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North Central, IN (the corn belt)
The deer camp thing was something I never had growing up and something that I envied. We just drove out to the farm and went deer hunting for the morning or afternoon. Not the same as taking off for a week or more totally dedicated to deer hunting. I did get exposed to some western hunts where we camped for a week which was great exposure and a bunch of fun.

Six years ago we bought some ground in a very deer rich area in southern IL and built a cabin. It's a whole lot more comfortable than camping, and a lot less work. Has been a blast and we look forward to using it for many years. Have also learned the area and have uncovered some great fishing as well, so the place gets more year round use.
 

NR_Hunter

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Jul 17, 2016
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430
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MN
When I was a kid we my uncle, grandpa, cousin and I would all go to the family cabin and hunt deer in little 20 acre lot of woods. My uncle bought a house nearby, my grandpa passed away, and my cousin gave up hunting. Now I stay the cabin by myself and my uncle drives over to hunt in the morning. Definitely not the same excitement for opener as when I was a kid. I never miss at least the Saturday of opening weekend, but I wouldn't feel bad missing it for an out of state trip, if I couldn't make the dates all line up.
 

NEW PA MT MN

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Aug 11, 2019
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76
I have belonged to two Pa deer camps. One was built by my father in 1950. It was more like a house. My sister talked him into selling it to her for 7000.00 in 1973 . Even though I was a year older than her I was out of the bidding cause she married $ and I blew all my money on alcohol and prostitutes. I was still going to get the dough somewhere, somehow to by it but she told me don't worry I'll keep it in the family.
After selling it for 38000.00 a few years later that camp was gone and I'm still bitter about it.
Got married in 1977 and that came with a better deer camp anyway. My late father in law ,a ww2 vet,offered it to me for free right before he died in 2008 but with 3 kids in college and our business on the skids I couldn't even pay the taxes.
At that time he and I were the last hunters left hunting anyway.
There were 3 generations of hunters.
3 original between the 2 camps.
All dead.
Next ----10 sons and soninlaws,all men.
6 of those are dead and 4 quit hunting.
9 in the last generation.
4 girls who only went a few times hunting more to do something with dad then hunt. At least my 2 daughters told me that later
The 5 guys lost interest if they ever really had it.
I know a lot of camps with near the same story. Lot of old age death and lost interest.
 

Dougfirtree

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Jul 27, 2016
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Adirondacks
I've always envied those little tight-knit hunting camps and have had the opportunity to hunt in one or two with friends who were members, but I can't imagine belonging to one that wasn't mobile. It's a cool tradition.
 

Hunt&FishCO

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Nov 5, 2020
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58
Good article couple of other factors that are impacting ‘Deer Camp’ culture:

- Building codes, can’t be a shack
- Price of rural land rapidly increasing
- New generation of Dads generally can’t be disconnected from family for extended periods of time
- Solo hunting seems to be more prevalent

I’m a first generation hunter, but spent time at friends-family deer camps (in the off season). Special places, great memories.
 

44hunter45

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Aug 14, 2019
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North Idaho
I’m not sure the end of deer camp culture is a bad thing.

When I was a kid in California deer camp was wives and kids too. Not too sporting. The men would drive the deer through a free fire zone populated with armed women and children. If you were old enough to point and shoot a 30/30, you were on the line. If it was brown it was down. The meat was divided up among all. I still shake my head no one was killed or hit. It left a real impression on me and not a good one.

It wasn’t until I went to hunters Ed in the early 1970’s that I learned that drives and party hunting were illegal in California.

Over the years I’ve had family from the old country ask to come to Idaho to hunt with me. I want nothing to do with it. I left that behind and won’t feed that troll.

It was in a Meateater podcast years ago they talked about porn in the deer cabin. As our camp was family camp with poaching, we didn’t have that.

Nothing changes your perspective in that sort of thing like having a daughter or granddaughter. I sure as hell not taking Miss T into such a camp.

Where I live today there are still families who by long tradition party hunt opening week. It not legal here either.

It has been fun and given me pride to teach my sons and granddaughter to be ethical hunters. We have never gone hungry.

I’ve dropped more than one dime to the Idaho CAP line.

I’m not saying deer camp culture is all bad. Even for me I took away positives. I’m saying if deer camp culture is a vector for bad ethics, juvenile behavior, and a poor image of hunters, then I’m happy to let it go.
 
Last edited:

nick87

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Dec 12, 2014
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Northern Illinois
Know of quite a few that have dissolved over the past 10 years, including ours. I'm partly to blame for that I suppose as I've prioritized other hunts over that annual trip.
 

stealthy_bowman

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Aug 21, 2016
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374
Location
NJ
A big factor in the demise of deer camps, particularly in the east, is nonexistent forest management in the large swaths of forests that were once the epicenter of deer camps. Lack of forest management results in a total lack of successional habitat. Many forests, such as the vast George Washington NF, are now overly mature and species that rely on successional habitats have vastly declined in recent years, including of course, deer and grouse among others. The result is that hunters just don’t go to such places in the numbers they used to. Instead, they are hunting the burbs or local farms that are over run with deer and have now much better deer habitat. The lack of forest management is a very real issue negatively impacting game and non-game species. It’s a pity it doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
 

THINKIN6X6

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Apr 21, 2018
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26
Our camp is alive and well. It's the one time per year I get to hunt with college roommates and we all make it a priority. The hunting part is not the emphasis and we rarely shoot anything bigger than a small 8 with the majority of bucks being mostly spikes and forks on heavily hunted public land. Its about spending time with old friends and keeping those connections alive.
 

Rzrbk

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Jan 10, 2021
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147
In most western states it's become impossible to have an annual deer/elk camp because you can't count on tags. I feel this fact is the main contributor to breaking these traditions. I met some locals in my draw deer unit this year and they talked about how they used to go into the area every year with their grandpa and other family. That's not happening today. Back east I feel the tradition is still alive and well. I am part of an annual archery deer camp that dates back to 1987 with the same group of guys, although we picked up a couple of newbies over the years. Most members of my camp have other annual camp traditions for the opener of muzzleloader and opener of modern rifle. If you drive I-40 through Arkansas the day before gun deer season you will see loads of trucks with ATV's heading to camp. It helps when you have certainty of a tag and location on public lands. Our camp is on private land in Arkansas.
 

F250

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Dec 9, 2011
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978
Location
Vermont
I started attending deer camp with my father, Uncle, and a couple friends when I was 7 years old. The third and last weekend of deer season was reserved for kids. By the time I reached Jr. High, I was allowed every weekend. I attended that camp until 1976 when I began work as a Warden and obviously had no time to hunt. The demise of traditional deer camps in the northeast appears to be due to lack of land access, and lack of participation by younger folks.
 

Shangobango

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Aug 5, 2019
Messages
886
Location
Louisiana
I think so.

In ours, which is a few separate camps, all the folks in my grandpas generation are gone. It is really just my uncle, my step pops, my 2nd cousin and myself, with the occasional visit from my son and some other family or friends. There are also a few people that are still local to the area that we share meals and hunting with over there.

All of us have separate camps now.

My other uncle and my cousins have moved away and rarely come back or just aren’t interested anymore. It is hard hunting over there. Access is primarily by boat. Long pack ins, long pack outs.

Dwindling right away.
 

1_pointer

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Joined
Dec 20, 2000
Messages
17,966
Location
Indiana
They are dying. I grew up hunting with my dad but not in a "deer camp". Having bought some land with a cabin I'm trying like the dickens to get a camp tradition started. The biggest hurdle I've had is the number of activities my kids are involved, specifically sports. I'm going to keep after it, even if it's just an opening weekend kind of thing. Take this year for example, my oldest shot a doe opening morning. My BIL (part owner of the property) came over and helped us track it and haul it out. While I started skinning/boning it, my two boys went with him to find and extract the buck he shot that morning. My oldest was helping him load it into the SXS when his grip slipped following by a slipping expletive. :D Good times.
 

Chaosonezero

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Joined
Dec 21, 2020
Messages
152
Location
Pennsylvania, living in Virginia
I’m not sure the end of deer camp culture is a bad thing.

When I was a kid in California deer camp was wives and kids too. Not too sporting. The men would drive the deer through a free fire zone populated with armed women and children. If you were old enough to point and shoot a 30/30, you were on the line. If it was brown it was down. The meat was divided up among all. I still shake my head no one was killed or hit. It left a real impression on me and not a good one.

It wasn’t until I went to hunters Ed in the early 1970’s that I learned that drives and party hunting were illegal in California.

Over the years I’ve had family from the old country ask to come to Idaho to hunt with me. I want nothing to do with it. I left that behind and won’t feed that troll.

It was in a Meateater podcast years ago they talked about porn in the deer cabin. As our camp was family camp with poaching, we didn’t have that.

Nothing changes your perspective in that sort of thing like having a daughter or granddaughter. I sure as hell not taking Miss T into such a camp.

Where I live today there are still families who by long tradition party hunt opening week. It not legal here either.

It has been fun and given me pride to teach my sons and granddaughter to be ethical hunters. We have never gone hungry.

I’ve dropped more than one dime to the Idaho CAP line.

I’m not saying deer camp culture is all bad. Even for me I took away positives. I’m saying if deer camp culture is a vector for bad ethics, juvenile behavior, and a poor image of hunters, then I’m happy to let it go.
My experience growing up in a hunting camp was kind of the opposite. But, the camp my family hunted out of was unlike most hunting camps in our area. In my younger years, it wasn't uncommon for there to be 25 guys (and gals) there on opening morning of rifle season, and even more in bear season. I don't remember there ever being much drinking, and no porn. I don't even recall there ever being a whole lot of card games. There was some tomfoolery and shenanigans from time to time, but we spent most of our time watching hunting videos or shooting the breeze. I have a lot of fond memories of hunting camp, but also know plenty of folks who were members of the more promiscuous camps, which were, I think, more intended to be an escape from wives and jobs vice simply a place to lay your head after a day in the woods.

Fast forward 25 years, and my immediate family (father, brother, uncle) are in the process of finishing up a small off-grid cabin on an acre or so of land surrounded by private property (which we have permission to hunt) and a bunch of state game lands. Getting hooked up to power is like $5k, so we're putting that off for now. Cell reception is minimal, and you have to do some acrobatics or stand in a certain part of the driveway just to send a text. Brings you back in time, in some respects, and allows you to focus on what you're there for. Hunting and time with family, so in that respect, it's paradise.
 

FlatlandHunter

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Joined
Dec 19, 2016
Messages
129
Location
NW Ohio
I would say that deer camps are dying, at least ours is. I have voiced my concern to our camp and believe it’s partly due to not allowing new blood in. I got permission for a coworker to go with me in 2017 because everyone else bailed for out of state hunts or couldn’t be there for whatever reason. After securing permission I don’t know if there was a miscommunication or if unfortunately my Dad was pissed I did this and he stirred it up but I was not talked to by my Great Uncle much those 4 days. My coworker and I took our bucks and left.

My Dad keeps saying he doesn’t want to see it go away but refuses to want new people in camp. My Dad is already trying to control this Falls camp because there is a chance my cousin will bring his oldest and wants me to go the 2nd week with my son and him. There are places to sit for all and I told him it would be fine. My Dad is in his 70’s and is a control freak in my opinion.

Anyone else have this problem with the generation that is starting to age out and quit hunting?
 

3855WIN

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Jul 17, 2014
Messages
1,886
Location
Mississippi
I’ve been fortunate to be in several camps, and am in one now on family property. It seems the younger set is just too busy to spend more than a night at the time. Between husband and wife working and kids signed up for a bunch of activities, they don’t come around for long stretches.
 

rocklockhunter

New member
Joined
Mar 1, 2021
Messages
5
We don't have a deer camp in the traditional sense of a cabin and private land. But every year my family gets together to hunt in November. We come from together from several different states and it's without-a-doubt, the highlight of my year.

I think they may look different in the future, but if it helps preserve work/life balance and allows hunting to continue, I think that's a good thing.
 

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