For many, the months of planning, the weeks of preparation and the long hours spent in the field have come to an end. Hunting season is starting to wind down and regardless of your success, or lack thereof, it’s time for that age-old tradition of the post-hunt gathering.
Our ancestors gathered around campfires and told tales of their adventures hunting the mammoth or bison, or the occasional opposing tribal member. Those who landed the biggest game were celebrated, those who came up empty were given a hard time.
While we may save the campfire stories for next year’s deer camp (when the memories have faded a bit and the size of antlers and lengths of hikes may grow a bit), we still gather to compare hunts.
Where do you and your “tribe” gather for the post-hunt celebration/commiseration?
For some of us, it’s a favorite watering hole in that special small town nearest our hunting grounds. These are magical places, where bartenders remember your name and hometown despite only seeing you and your loud-ass friends four days a year. The locals may or may not enjoy your visit, but on some level they understand that their hangout has become part of your tradition.
Pro Tip: Leave the cigars outside and you’ll find the locals to be much more warm and inviting.
Others gather around the parking lots of the local meat processors, comparing deer at the drop off or gathering inside at the order counter with a cup of coffee. Not only do you get to celebrate the hunt with friends, you also get to see who in your area bagged the big one that you used to see on your cameras… Until the day before the season opened.
Many of these spots are local legends, where families have dropped off their game for decades. One of our favorites we’ve visited over the years is the Wahoo Meat Locker (Home of the Famous Wahoo Weiner!). I mean… C’mon… Everyone loves the Wahoo Weiner.
Wahoo Weiner. Last one. We promise.
Or, if you are a DIY processor, that gathering place may be a barn, garage or backyard where many hands make light work of breaking down whitetail, butchering elk quarters or defeathering pheasants. This may be a rotating location yearly, or the same faces may have gathered at the same barn for 40+ years.
Regardless, there are some things all of these have in common.
People gather to share the love of hunting, and all its glory and challenges. It’s a celebration of nature, and what it provides those willing to work for it. It’s a time to pay respect to the game animal that put up a valiant fight, but now will sustain and nourish families.
And, it’s usually time to wipe out any of the beer that may have survived elk camp.
Or is that just at our gatherings?
Wins, losses, bad weather, good weather… It doesn’t matter now. Now we simply give thanks to whatever power we believe created the nature we so enjoy.
In other words… Thank you, Tom Cruise.