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November 19, 2013 | 03:54 PMLate November weather.
It is cold enough now that I can see my breath. Frost crusts grass and piles of dry leaves. Snow has already fallen this year. Before sunrise, the sky is clear and crisp and full of light from a moon bright enough to cause trees to cast shadows. After sunrise, the atmosphere is dry and thin. The wind is temperamental and blows bare tree branches that clack over a carpet of brown leaves and brittle twigs.
It's time to hunt deer.
Opening day is Nov. 23 at sunrise, and until Dec. 1, deer hunters across the state will set aside time to drive out to cabins, hotels and motels near familiar acres of wild land either publicly or privately owned. Few will hunt alone. Most will be among mixtures of friends and family that might only appear once a year for the hunt.
We call them "deer camps," but some have given themselves more creative and unique names.
Old huts and shanties glow orange and yellow and swell with familiar visitors, tucked away from civilization on dirt roads miles from street grids and post offices. Plumes of smoke pulse through old chimneys. Dusty cribbage boards and faded poker chips appear on coffee tables. It smells like smoke, beer and propane.
Nothing is fancy, but everything is comfortable.
Each camp has its own history and tradition. Some are old enough to have formed oral histories so elaborate and embellished that they rival Greek tragedies in scope and imagination; legendary figures from camps past – cousins and uncles and very old friends – who defeated beasts more often mentioned than seen: 30-point bucks and two-headed does.
Camps have initiations, inside jokes and very specific diets.
Smoked meats. Chili. Cheeses. Sausages. Beans. Whisky. Beer. Foods that stick to the ribs and drinks that burn them loose.
All the ingredients of a culture, a hunter's way of life.
Like Thanksgiving or Christmas, opening weekend of gun deer season is a holiday steeped in tradition. A strong sense of tradition and an active outdoor lifestyle among hunters makes this holiday especially rugged.
Many deer cabins have outhouses and no running water. Some are heated by wood-burning cast iron stoves. For many, the simpler and more old-fashioned the weekend, the better it is.
There is little to no cell phone service deep inside the north woods. There are no Wi-Fi hotspots in the pine groves and marshes.
Change, however, is a given.
This year, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has created a Facebook page for hunters to share stories, traditions and pictures. Twitter users are encouraged to share posts using #WIhunt.
The DNR decided to host online chats at noon on Nov. 19-21 to discuss season expectations, hunting locations, safety regulations and gear allocation.
The digital world has found a way to seep into another way of life, and though I shouldn't be surprised, something about it seemed ironic. The DNR found a way to promote an off-the-grid lifestyle by plugging into the grid.
And though I want to resist the change and keep my hunting and digital worlds separate, I can't resist combining them.
So, this weekend, I encourage you to share your hunting pictures, stories and traditions on Twitter using #LGhunt. Post updates about your hunt on the Regional News Sports Check Facebook page. Though I love my deer camp, I want to learn about yours.
Also, please email pictures of your kills to Sports
@lakegenevanews.net and we may feature your buck or doe in the paper (please make sure pictures are sent in JPEG format). And that goes for birds too.
Good luck in the woods this weekend and safe hunting.