The Staple of Deer Camps

By Larry Dablemont
One of the things I hate most about deer season is the combination of long-range rifles and alcohol. In the night before the season opener, liquor stores do business with hunters that exceeds any night of the year. Deer camps seldom are found in the Ozarks without an abundance of alcohol stashed in tents or campers.


       I was only 13 or 14 when Dad and I floated down the Big Piney on the opening day of deer season. We were hunting ducks and squirrels and, in that time, there were plenty of ducks on the river in mid-November. Just a ways below Slabtown I sat in the front of our wooden johnboat peering over the front of our bough-blind when a bullet whined over my head only a few feet above me, followed by the report of a rifle. Another buzzing, whining rifle slug followed before my dad started to yell that we were in a line of fire.
       Just downstream were three men from St. Louis shooting at a whiskey bottle floating in the river. Dad was mad and as he floated past, he let them know what he thought of them for endangering lives with drunken ignorance. They didn’t say much, but dad said they were too stupid (and drunk) to know that a rifle bullet ricochets off the water.
       That year or the year before a young man I knew from Houston, Mo was killed by a deer hunter. The victim, Larry Brown, was just out of high school and well known and respected in the area. That was before the days of blaze orange, but the hunters on the front bench of our pool hall were learning to wear red caps and red shirts. Alcohol use during deer season is more prevalent than ever and if you talk to the liquor storeowners you won’t question that. Now in the future, deer camps will add marijuana to the feel-good bottles and cans found there now.
       I know a great man whose life was ruined by alcohol. He said it started in a deer camp in the 70’s. He was never without a bottle since, although he lost his wife and kids because of it. He is one of only two Dablemonts who drank alcohol.   The other one got drunk enough once to kill 3 people and himself one Saturday night. Those men were of Canadian French-Indian ancestry and it is known that Indian descendants can’t process alcohol properly. But my daughter, a doctor, once told me that some other people become alcoholics with their first night of drinking. I have been in lots of hunting camps, but I won’t be in any of them where alcohol is present.
       I would beg any man who wants his son or daughter to join him at hunting camp to think about what might happen to them when they grow older if they are being introduced to alcohol there.
       In some future column I will tell the story about two of my favorite cousins whom I dearly loved when we were children and hunted with most of my life. Both died at the age of 59, because of alcohol and drugs. It took months of suffering before they passed away. Marijuana and beer controlled those two before they were 25 years old. And in time, both booze and drugs were a part of every hunting and fishing trip we made, though they honored my request to wait until after the hunt to go to what controlled their everyday life.
       I will be ridiculed for saying this, but we all should spread the word to young people we know, that life is better without drugs and alcohol. We need addicts who are controlled by marijuana and beer to travel around to our high schools telling young people that there is a much better way to live than they themselves chose.
     I wasn’t going to hunt deer this year, because it holds little challenge now, and I think I would just as soon eat a goat as the meat of a rut crazed buck. But I will likely kill a couple of deer for some people who are unable to put venison in the freezer but through me. I will only kill does for them most likely. I have plenty of antlers, including 10, 12 and 13-point bucks from 54 years of deer-hunting in the Ozarks. After a few days of the season if you want some antlers, float the rivers and you will find several bucks in the river, the result of being shot and crippled by someone who wasn’t a very good shot or an incompetent hunter unable to find and follow a blood trail. As you read this, the bulk of the deer hunting carnival is over… thank goodness.
       Cold weather like we had on opening weekend keeps lots of hunters indoors and keeps deer from moving as much. Plenty of acorns keep deer from moving as much in the extreme cold too. But a buck with doe scent on his mind ignores the cold and becomes a real idiot. Later deer will begin to cover more territory in extreme cold. Everything moves more when it is cold because food requirements increase. BUT… deer become increasingly nocturnal after a few days of blaze orange in the woods.