Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Deer Camp

   What is it about 'Deer Camp' that not only brings out the best in men, but puts them back in touch with the great outdoors, living off the land in order to harvest food for the table. restoring relationships with family, friends, campfires, camaraderie, and memories.  In reality, it isn't even about getting a deer at all.....some of my best trips didn't result in venison.  In far NW Oklahoma  Fort Supply consists of a large lake teeming with fish as well as over 5,000 acres of bottom land, milo fields, and creek bottoms that are home to quail, turkeys, rabbits, and of course whitetail deer.  I hunted here for many years when we still lived in Oklahoma.  We pulled several very nice bucks out of this area as well as plenty of good venison as well.
     There are 8 primitive camping areas in the area and we were lucky enough to make ours in the same we used years past.  These are primitive spots with NO FEES so we 'watered up' before we arrived and set up our boondocking protocol, including solar panels, battery bank, and generator backup.  The nearby Supply Lake Park was still open so we had water access to haul back and forth when needed.  Grey water disposal is always part of the 'Boondocking Protocol' with some being used as flush water, saving us a full gallon of fresh water daily. 
     I had not hunted here in nearly 17 years and so I would have to virtually re-scout the entire area I wished to hunt.  Some had changed, others not at all, but our conversation with the game warden on arrival made us aware of the situation.  The weather the first month of archery season was unseasonably warm, including a 92 degree day just last week.  The trees were still very green and not much foliage had dropped.  Hunting had been slow simply because there was still too much cover and not enough cold weather to make the deer move.  Additionally, fawn production over the previous 5 years was down about 80% which made our chances even slimmer.  I was hoping that the first two weeks of November, typically the peak of the rut, would change all this.  Days 1 and 2 consisted simply of setting up, stocking up, cutting firewood, and scouting/setting up the blind.
     We took a day off (as well Barb several days off herself) to do some fishing off the dam in search of some fresh local catfish.  We spent an enjoyable afternoon, but had only 3 bluegill to show for our efforts.

    One of the best parts about Deer Camp is the evening.....firewood, meal planning, sitting around the fire with a couple of 'cold ones' talking about the day, spinning tales, or just plain solving all the world's problems.  Of course this year the Mid Term Elections brought smiles to our faces.  Among the meals the 'Mad Chef' created were Fajitas from the remainder of last year's venison, Fried Razor Clams, Smoked Ham Casserole, Bratwurst Kabobs, Halibut Royale, Garlic Rosemary Chicken Thighs, some incredible Venison Wraps made from a complete backstrap among other retiree inspirations. 
     The beginning of our second week gave me hope, but be careful what you wish for.  A strong cold front was forecast to move in bringing strong winds and much colder temperatures for the next week.  Oklahoma weather can be awfully unpredictable and we were so not prepared for what would happen.  The front arrived on schedule, with winds 25-35 with gusts nearing 50 at times.  The temperatures dropped from a daytime high of 87 degrees to a freezing 32 within 90 minutes.  The first night was cold and blustery.  I was hopeful that this might bring some action to my hunting.  The next day temps hovered around freezing with the same winds.  Life in the deer blind was miserable.
      Boondocking in very cold weather without RV park water hookups and a full freshwater tank provide for a completely different set of challenges.  First of all you use much more propane for heat.  There are no water hoses to disconnect.  You are completely on your own.  This was our first experience at such camping.  By night the temps had dropped into the teens. During the day I had rigged a portable heater to our generator in order to free up the frozen water valves beneath our RV.  The overnight temps dipped to 9 degrees so I turned off the pump and drained all the water from the lines, opening interior doors to allow warmer air to reach the pipes as well.  I once again positioned the portable heater.  Once I had freed the ice from the drain valve I emptied our fresh water tank to prevent damage.  I left the heater beneath the RV and ran the generator all night.  Needless to say, it was a very long night. 
     The next morning brought the situation into stark reality.  The rest of the week would not be much better with the overnight temps always in the low 20s.  Remember, it was me who wanted the colder weather.  Me, the guy who traveled south to avoid winters.  We retrieved my hunting blind and decided to break camp.  Although the hunting part of this adventure had brought zero results it was still a good break from city and RV park life, getting off the grid and living on our own, as well as learning some very valuable lessons for the rest of the trip.  This was our 57th day off grid since April.  Total energy costs for these 11 days averaged $9.58 per day, mostly due to generator gas and propane.  
WiFi for this stop courtesy of the Army Corps of Engineers Office. 

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