I’m not sure the experience of deer camp could ever be completely communicated, but “Welcome to Deer Camp” by Rick Bass is one of the better attempts. Though the landmarks are different and the people go by other names, it is easy to recognize the similarities between his camp and my camp, and I assume others’ camps. He also does a good job of representing the mysterious pull of the Texas landscape and the powerful ability a place has for burrowing into the nature of a person.
One week per year, for 35 years, in my instance, plus all my secondary visits to this place, adds up easily to 365 days: one year of my life. And that may not sound like much, over the course of so many years. But the quality of those days—each hour so very alive, not just with the electric luminescence of each cell alert, sitting quietly, or walking quietly, while hunting, but luminous too in the deep relaxation of peace back in camp, with family, and in that rugged bower of granite and juniper in the hill country, away from the clamor of the so-called “real” world—well, 365 of those kinds of days are an electric year indeed. What if we lived all of our days, all of our years, with that intensity?
I think that we would either collapse, or experience some kind of perhaps unbearable transcendence.
In the old days it used to be about killing deer, and, if the opportunity arose, a wild turkey, feather-jeweled, sunlit, glimmering, radiant. Now it’s about spending time with one another. It’s amazing to me how little we care now about pulling the trigger; and it’s amazing also that now that I have left the Texas Hill Country, have run away to the wilds of Montana—where I’ve lived for nearly the last 30 years, and where the hunting is superb (due largely to the vast tracts of unpaved wilderness), exhilarating, and best accomplished when solitary—that I keep coming back to Texas, tame little Texas, anyway.