The 7 Stages of Deer Camp

Nothing takes us back in time or gets us thinking about deer hunting season quite like the phrase "deer camp." It elicits one of the most friendly and inviting feelings that we have as hunters and allows for one of the best parts we share as a community. We plan for it, wait all year to take part in it, and—once it's all over—we look back on it with reverence.

Deer camp may not be something that every deer hunter can take part in, but they have all heard about it nonetheless. It could be said that anytime we hunt with a group, it is the same or similar to having an actual deer camp experience—but it's just not the same. Those two words don't just mean an actual physical place to go and do some deer hunting but, rather, define a way to commune with other like-minded hunters and outdoors people to share in the harvest that we wait all year for. Like deer season, it seems to take forever to get here and leaves you wondering where it went so quickly.

But don't despair—we're going to leave you some crumbs so you can find your way back. These are the seven stages of deer camp that make it so great.

The Arrival

If you've ever been a part of the deer camp experience, then you'll understand the emotional response to a gathering of hunters, and there's no greater feeling than opening the door of the cabin to another member of your party. If it involves only friends, great; but when your family is taking part—especially your elders—it's a feeling that almost defies explanation. Between the greetings, the smiles, and the celebrations, it's a time of communion that is both loving and spiritual. But don't let that make you think that the trash talk isn't about to begin.

The Reminiscing

cast and blast trip

Stories of both past glories and defeats will dot the days and nights throughout deer camp, and everyone has one—from the one that got away to the one that is now on the wall, and all the reasons why. Having the ear of those who live what we live, think the way we think, and draw breath each day with deer on their minds goes a long way toward the feeling of community that makes deer hunting the treasure that it is.

Story Time

Sure, this goes hand in hand with reminiscing, as it should—with the difference being that the audience sometimes has your back and sometimes they think you're a comedian. Stories at camp abound about the perfect setup and the perfect shot, but they inevitably go down the road of "It was a Booner, but I couldn't get the shot off." Sure it was. Hearing tall tales of mystery and imagination is the stuff of legend at the cabin, especially since the setting is in the deep, dark woods. The only thing missing is the big screen and the popcorn.

The Spirituality

hunting facts

We don't expect every hunter out there to be religious, only to recognize that deer hunting can be a religious experience. Everyone can and should be utterly thankful for the camaraderie, the company, and the closeness while enjoying the experience, but most of all be thankful for the harvest of our favorite wild game animal. Each of us reflects this in our own way, personal to ourselves, and deer camp is one of the places where this form of spirituality is most evident.

Elation, Jealousy, and Regret

All of these emotions can come into play at camp, and each of us has to deal with them all at one time or another. Since the only thing better than scoring a target buck is scoring him with an audience, it stands to reason that there will be those in the group secretly harboring a little jealousy, and that's normal. Then there is the member of the party who has to live with the sad tale of the opportunity the never happened, all the things that went wrong and, worst of all, the missed shot. If scoring the big buck in the cabin is the best thing, then missing him is the worst.

The Smell

Deer Vision

Getty Images: SteveOehlenschlager

A plethora of things can run in this category during the seven stages of deer camp, including dead deer and hunters who smell like them. If you don't have the facilities to shower at your camp, then congratulations because you are not only old school but likely in the majority. Deer camp is meant to be a throwback to the glory days of the hunt when rank wasn't a military term but meant to describe the odor of your cabin. It also is a perfect description of the nearby outhouse.


If this isn't the most dreaded stage of deer camp, then it is the most emotional one. You and your friends and family planned this since the last time you attended deer season together, and now you have to wait for another year. Sure, there's late bow season, muzzleloader season and, in some states, a late antlerless season, but it's just not the same as opening day at the old deer hunting shed.

Getting there was a joy to plan, attend, and hunt, but now it's time to go. You may have scored or watched one of your hunting partners do it, but the only thing left is the memory—and that may just be the very best part of deer camp, no denying it.

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