Women in Deer Camp?

The first woman who boldly went where no woman had gone before, into a deep-woods deer camp, deserves a medal.


She started something, unknowingly perhaps, which greatly improved the experience and helped to maintain the hunting tradition for generations to come. Since the first shack was erected in a cold, dank forest, hunting camp was the domain almost exclusively of men. Unshaven, un-showered and often ill-mannered men. They were lawyers or carpenters or salesmen or engineers or barbers the other 360 days of the year. But as they passed through that gate, one by one, they devolved.

At deer camp, they played cards and smoked cigars and had a drink—or five—after the guns were stored. They wiped mouths on shirt sleeves, wore the same underwear for days and threw peanuts at each other. They scratched whenever and wherever it suited them. And after a few bowls of venison chili around the fire pit, deer camp sounded like tryouts for the Olympic Farting Team.

And then, one otherwise forgettable fall day, a woman put a little vase of flowers on a deer-camp table where the poker chips had been. And she hung an opaque curtain in the shower and lit a few candles. And in the morning, same as everyone, she rose and grabbed her rifle and sat in her stand and maybe shot a nice deer. And maybe she dressed her own deer or maybe not, but her presence, the simple fact that she’d pushed through that smoky glass ceiling, changed hunting forever.

Regardless of how much traditional femininity she brings to camp, a woman sets new standards. No more half-weeks without showers. And no more leaving the bathroom without hoisting the can and spritzing the air. There’s still beer in the fridge, but now there’s a bottle of white wine next to it. And napkins, not just paper towels. And some potpourri where the bowl of stale chips sat yesterday.

I’m a huge fan, actually, of women in deer camps. Doesn’t matter who brought them or what the relationship is, either, so long as it’s a legal and moral one. They lift the place up, generally, just by being there. And none of us men, being what our DNA makes us, wants to be the one who offends them.

Welcome, ladies, to deer camp. We had it to ourselves for the past couple of hundred years, and, well, you can see (and smell) what we did with the place. Thank you for picking up a little—which we know isn’t your job but something you recognize needs doing and realize wouldn’t otherwise get done. Thanks also for insisting that we change bed linens and wash towels more than twice a season. Thanks for encouraging us to work in some healthy snacks and meals, and to sleep more and curse less.

Women in deer camp? Hooray. They civilize us men and keep us on our toes. Same as they have forever.


First-Time Female Invitation To Deer Camp Guidelines

  • Please don’t criticize a man’s gun, his dog or his truck.
  • Lend a hand where you can, but don’t overdo it to prove a point. Forgive men for their mistakes, because they will make some.
  • Lock the bathroom door.
  • Enjoy yourself. You are always welcome.
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