The evenings typically start at Long Ridge about 5 or 5:15 PM as hunters return to camp from still hunts or stands. During the main of deer season it gets dark here about 4:50 PM or so and it'll take 20/25 minutes for 6 to 10 hunters to all get back to camp.. some are walking, some on ATV's, some arrive in vehicles because they hunted spots up or down the road and way out. In any case, there are floodlights at camp and these can be seen for some distance as you approach from any angle in the woods. There is a perennial fire going in the large stone fireplace and first hunter back to camp stokes this to intoxicating levels. Sparks and the crackling of burning fire wood are what I first see when I come out. Because I do not like to school the deer on my elevated stands, I wait til well after dark to return to camp, so am often the last in. Coming across the fields to camp I can see the shadows of hunters around the fire, and it is always exciting to hear what they saw, shot, experienced. After unloading rifles and carrying in whatever gear we want, we gather around the large dining table that seats ten. On the table you'll find soda, a large variety of wines, liquors, mixers, beer, snacks, and the most delicious array of crackers and cheeses you've experienced. It's cocktail hour! Above you see a typical shot of a toast about to be hoisted...no doubt to a successful past year. If this is the first night of the season, it is time to clink glasses, refresh ourselves of family, work and personal news, and to renew long and enduring friendships...
After an hour or so of socializing, we begin preparing the main meal. Always, good Maine Russet potatoes, the best baking potatos grown, are wrapped in foil and tossed into the grill for a good hour or more. This give us time to gather around the fire, hoist another drink, admire the harvest, and to prepare our meats. Our meats are rarely purchased, almost always wild game harvested by us. Venison, moose, elk, mule deer, wild boar, bear, are all consumed with gusto. Several of the hunters actually enrolled in a first water cooking class and learned how to make up the most savory sauces one could imagine. These meals truly rival anything I have ever eaten in some of the finest restaurants in the East. Our best grill artist is a hunter from Pennsyvania, who can broil any game there is to tender perfection...Toss in a first class salad, and the crew is called in. Tons to eat, tons to drink - diets are put asides for deer camp, and mountains of gourmet food is enjoyed by all, delicious red wines accompany the meals and we all wonder why we cannot live like this year around!
After supper, of course, out to the fire and chatting over the possibilities for tomorrows hunt, our children's future, national politics, or the beauty of life itself. A lovely evening indeed..work is far away, drudgery, if there is any in our lives, is far away, finances, The Long War, everything, right now, is far, far, away from us at deer camp this evening.
Several hours later, depending on how early one wants to rise to hunt, it is moved inside, deep in easy chairs around the reading table for a night cap, easy conversation, or quiet contemplation. It is the moment of first walking out of the woods, and this final moment of the day, that I have my deepest thoughts and appreciation for real friends, in a real world, so far from Washington DC, so far from where our brave youngsters are warding off the murderers around the world. Our camp is primitive, and modest. Just a porta-potty. No running water. But it is warm, and dry, and comfortable, and when filled with the voices and bodies of real hunters, a true variety of cool people who love nature, and family and life, then I feel surrounded by a richness and luxury I can hardly explain. I have sat in my easy chair and listened to the buzz of enjoyment around me, and been humbled into stunned silence and not a little thankful prayer. What a thing, deer camp!