It generally starts with clearing away brush and debris from a level spot. Soon, it’s a group effort to pitch a massive tent which sleeps ten. Other times you’ll see two or three campers pulled together in a group and their doors linked with a canopy of blue or brown tarps.
Eventually, firewood is stacked high by the door of whatever dwelling is selected. Coolers and propane tanks sit on the exterior. The low hum of a generator may pierce the otherwise silence of the backwoods solitude. A flickering fire, the scent of wood smoke and frying bacon, and the chill of a north wind carrying a hint of snow.
Those are images most of us have grown accustom to when it comes to deer season. The two-week buck season in
"It’s a very strong, deep heritage that gets passed down from generation to generation," said Gary Foster of the West Virginia DNR. "There sure are a lot of folks that live for that Monday morning on opening day. That’s a special time."
It’s special because it’s traditional. Most hunters can recall their first trips to deer camp as a youngster. Many have reassembled at the same spot on the same weekend every year of their lives for the tradition. Mines close, factories idle, construction jobs come to a halt, and schools struggle with low attendance both from students and teachers. It’s not uncommon to see three and sometimes four generations of a family of hunters in camp on opening day.
The DNR estimates between 250 and 300 thousand hunters participate in the two week buck season. Comparatively the percentage that kills deer is far fewer. But killing a deer can at times become a secondary event to just being there.
"A lot of national surveys indicate nationwide big game hunting has actually stayed up pretty well in terms of license sales," said Foster. "Where you really notice the difference is the decline in small game hunters over the last 10 to 15-years."
We live in a world where computers, video-games, and organized sports dominate the lives of children. They’re being raised by a generation of non-hunting parents, who may not have been taught to hunt or hunted early in life, but because of an increasingly packed lifestyle had to give it up. Other youngsters aren’t being extended the tradition perhaps because of the increasingly high number of single parent households where the mother generally isn’t as interested in passing on the hunting heritage.
"Buck season has remained strong," Foster said. "A lot of hunters are very interested in that season, absolutely."