It’s Monday, which means hunters across the state are about four days away from finalizing where they will sit for opening morning of the state’s gun deer season.
My friend Mike might choose to sit at the “Old Apple Orchard Stand,” where there is no longer any fruit.
You might find my friend Steve at “Outhouse,” where there has been no facility for at least 20 years.
Someone in my camp could pick to hunt near “Pink Shack,” where there’s not a shack to be found—of any color.
And the boss buck possibly will be waiting for my boss, Sid, at “The Pig Pens,” where you’ll find pigs … but only when they fly.
That’s four different camps across the state of Wisconsin, and four similar tales of landmarks famous only to the hunters who have been scouting that specific piece of land for decades.
It’s a small sample size, but I bet if I surveyed 100 more hunters, nearly all of them could tell me a spot or two within their camp that has earned its own nickname.
What’s in a name?
Depends on the spot.
Some of them are simply named after geographic features. Sid, who hunts near Reedsburg, has The Square Woods. “Named after its shape,” he said. Steve has The Big Oak. We’ve got The Hardwoods.
But more often it seems these spots are named after certain relics that hunters of yesteryear found and used as landmarks. Mike has a spot with a stand named after a blue bucket. Up in Sawyer County, we’ve got points named after a tar barrel, a school bus, a door and “the irons,” which I’m pretty sure involves an old piece of railroad track.
Such spots add a certain flavor to stories shared after the third Old-Fashioned on Sunday night of the first weekend of deer camp.
For instance, wouldn’t you like to hear Steve’s tale of getting his big buck at his go-to spot, the “Dump Road honey hole,” where “the climb out of there is a real widow-maker?”
Or I’m kind of hoping Sid has to track his deer into The Little Swamp, which he says is in “an impenetrable wetland along Hay Creek.” (Sorry, Sid. Strap those waders on …)
Often, these points were named generations ago, but they continue to serve several purposes. They can be rendezvous points if a group of hunters is splitting up or serve as a reference point to make sure hunters are not setting up too close to one another.
“All those landmarks were in place before I started, and I think were pretty well established when my dad started,” my cousin Matt told me of the notable landmarks at camp near the Flambeau River State Forest. “I believe most of them were equipment left by loggers that just started to be used as landmarks along the old railroad bed used to haul out the logs.
“They were and are definitely used as landmarks. I can’t tell you how many times I was told to wait at ‘the irons’ and we’ll meet there or to make a drive up to the tar barrel.”
Of course, if you’re like me and you’re directionally challenged, your Uncle Paul can tell you to meet him at the tar barrel and all you can do is stare back at him with your eyes glazed over.
And thus, I have my goal for this deer season.
I spent the past seven gun deer seasons waiting to get my first buck. I’d sit for long stretches hoping some horns would walk by or that my fellow hunters might be able to drive a deer toward me.
That plan eventually worked out last year, when Cousin Brian set me up in the right spot and Uncle Paul rustled one up to help get me on the buck board.
But I realize now I was focused more on the outcome and not enough on the process.
There’s no longer any pressure associated with the outcome. I’m on the board, and I’ve been told in no uncertain terms there’s no reason to bring a buck home to our 6-month-old daughter.
And so I intend to spend next weekend learning more about the land. Explore. Perhaps take a stroll with Uncle Paul so I’m not giving him a glazed-over look when he tells me to go to “the irons” next November.
And if I happen across the white-faced, white-necked 8-pointer we’ve seen on the trail cams, that will simply be a bonus.