“Where were you?” … The Feb. 18, 2001 Edition

It was among the topics that always came up for damn near a decade. But, honestly, the frequency with which family and friends asked about it started waning after 2010 or so.

The topic might have been talked about less, but the memories around that fateful day in February 2001 are as rich and clear as they’ve ever been.

Everyone knows Dale Earnhardt was a massive loss to the sport of NASCAR, that’s been published in hundreds of thousands of articles since his death. For a young sports reporter, still green and wet behind the ears, losing Earnhardt touched so many emotions that extended well beyond the burgeoning sport.

You see, Dale Earnhardt was the reason I was even in the sport to begin with. I’d wanted to be a sports reporter since the seventh grade, but I wanted to write about NASCAR because I was a fan. I was a fan because of the affinity my dad and his friends had for Big E. It’s hard to find a photo of me from the mid-1990s where I wasn’t in an Earnhardt t-shirt. For my family, Big E represented us in the giant sport of NASCAR.

Here’s the story I often told when Earnhardt’s death came up in the early 2000’s. It was the well cited answer to the question, ‘where were you when that accident happened?’ I’ve never really written about that day (beyond reporting on it), and I’m not certain why. Now, 20 years and two kids later, seems as a good of a time as any.

It was a crazy time for me, that February. Just a couple of weeks before then, I’d made the difficult decision that it was time to leave sports reporting and try my hand at another profession in the sport, hopefully something with more earning potential than being a local sports reporter provided.

I’d landed a job with a marketing company that was among the top within the sport. Before I completely transitioned, though, I would cover the 2001 Daytona 500 for the newspaper, and co-host a season preview show for the NBC affiliate from Roanoke, Va.

You see, the 2001 Daytona 500 was my last event as a sports reporter. It was also the first time for me covering the biggest stock car event on the planet. The following week I was to clean out my desk and make the move from Virginia to the heart of NASCAR in North Carolina.

The week was fantastic and the massive amounts of content we created for the newspaper and preseason television show came out really well. It was lined up to be an amazing swan song as a reporter. There was an incredible level of “buzz” about the upcoming NASCAR season. It was the first year of a massive television broadcast agreement, and FOX Sports was about to broadcast its first race. The television compounds were jam packed with satellite trucks, all set to broadcast programming back to towns across the land. It’s hard to put into context just how big things felt that week.

On the eve of the 500, our live preview show from victory lane of the famed Daytona International Speedway went off without a hitch. There Justin Ditmore and I were, talking about Martinsville and the Earles family, Junie Donlavey, Stacy Compton and all of the other local, relevant topics for the upcoming season as Earnhardt was taking race dignitary Terry Bradshaw for a spin in the pace car. Imagine that. As we’re broadcasting into the homes of central Virginia, Earnhardt’s doing donuts in the pace car to instill the right amount of fear in Bradshaw … right over our shoulders!

The next morning was somewhat of a normal race morning headed into the biggest event of the season. I attended the driver’s meeting in the garage area and distinctly remember watching Earnhardt leaving the meeting and following him within vicinity as he made his way back to his hauler.

The race itself was a good one. There was action throughout and all of the potential storylines were taking shape nicely for me to write plenty of content for the newspaper. My local angle looked solid with hometown driver Compton, who started the race on the outside pole, running in the top 15 all day.

Around the three-quarter mark, the oft occurring “big one” came, highlighted by Tony Stewart going airborne in a spectacular crash. He was treated and taken to Halifax Medical Center for a checkup, which wasn’t altogether uncommon for a crash of that magnitude.

I was personally getting antsy with the understanding that a lot of work laid ahead while sitting in the tight confines of the Benny Kahn Media Center.

Today, DIS has an absolute best-in-class jewel of a media center, developed in a way that comfortably hosts hundreds of onsite media. That was not the case in 2001! I was among the fortunate to have a working space in the small deadline room within the Benny Kahn Media Center. I was sitting among a number of other reporters who had become good friends. That’s the way it was with the traveling circus of those days.

On this day, I remember sitting near the then-reporters for the Charlotte Observer, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Concord (N.C.) Tribune and The State (Columbia, S.C). NASCAR SCENE and Turner’s new NASCAR.com reporters were nearby too. Believe it or not, all of those outlets had multiple reporters covering the event, with one being in the press box overlooking the track, and the other(s) in the infield media center.

As the final laps clicked off, I suddenly found myself standing below an elevated television in the Benny Kahn – reporter’s notebook in hand – as the white flag dropped. I watched the well-reported crash occur and didn’t think a ton of it. I quickly reviewed what needed to be done and realized local racer Compton had just scored his first top-10 finish in the Cup Series. That’s where I headed. I beat him to the impound area in the garage. I can still feel and smell the race cars, their heat radiating, as exhausted-looking drivers climbed from their seats.

I patiently waited, grinning with excitement for my friend Stacy, as he climbed from his car.

“Congratulations, man,” I told him as he was removing his helmet, and taking his electronic ear pieces from his ears.

“Hey, did they get Dale out yet?” he asked me.

I remember a hint of confusion at the question, but not in a panic way. I simply thought it odd that a young driver just experiencing a highlight of his career to this point was asking about the accident – an accident that seemed somewhat commonplace at the end of a superspeedway event.

“I think so, I saw they were headed that way,” I told him, almost dismissive of the question in lieu of a return to the business at hand.

“He hit hard,” Stacy said.

I started jumping into asking him questions and didn’t get two words out when he stopped me and looked me in the eyes. He reached his hand out as if to almost slow me down. He wasn’t being a jerk at all, he was simply reiterating his point.

“No, he hit really hard,” Stacy continued.

I’d love to tell you that it clicked for me when he said that. It didn’t. And I truly didn’t imagine the crash being as devastating as it had. You’ve heard many say “it just didn’t look bad,” and I was firmly in that camp. Just 25 laps earlier I’d watched a 3,400 lb. car do a pirouette on the backstretch and, save for a trip to the hospital for quick observation, the driver was fine.

I went about my business of gathering interview content and returned to my post in the Benny Kahn. There, a half-empty deadline room was working hard to transcribe interviews and finish with interviews from drivers who were on the dais after top-five finishes.

It felt almost normal.

The actual timeline for me at this point gets a little fuzzy as it all seemed to happen very quickly. I know it didn’t.

The Observer’s Jim Utter, sitting directly across from me, got a phone call. I remember him saying, “What?” with a sense of urgency. A former Journal-Constitution reporter, also a fairly new, young reporter, also heard him. Almost in unison when Jim hung up the phone, we said, “what’s up?” Jim pointed to the door.

We navigated through the deadline room as well as a smaller, connected room that housed racks where public relations representatives stocked folders with their race teams’ content, before making our way out the front door. There, Jim turned around and told us both, “Earnhardt’s dead.”

I was stunned. Hell, we were all stunned. But I believed him when he mentioned who he’d spoken with.

I didn’t know what to do, but I felt like I needed to get into the garage. Almost at that very moment, NASCAR security was closing and locking the chain-linked garage gate entrance immediately adjacent to the Benny Kahn.

I stopped at the payphone in front of the media center. There, I called my brother’s house in Virginia. Without exchanging pleasantries, I asked to speak with my dad, who was visiting him at the time.

“Dad, Earnhardt’s dead,” I told him.

He started by sharing the same feeling that the accident didn’t look that bad.

“Dad, he’s gone. I’ve gotta go now,” I let him know.

There was a numb feeling attached to the return to work. I called my editor, Walt Moody, and we worked through a plan to blow up all of our coverage. He quickly got to the news staff and placed a hold on the A-1 page of the paper for a forthcoming obituary.

Here I was, my last race to cover as a media member, and I was having to write an obituary about one of my sports heroes. It was unbelievably hard to start.

It was quite a while before any official statement came. By then, the news had made its way around several times. National news media outlets were already making arrangements with their local counterparts and it wasn’t too long before the Benny Kahn was beyond capacity. NASCAR President Mike Helton, who 15 years later would be someone I got to work closely with, was given the unwanted task to step in front of the world. There, just 10 feet to my left, I watched as he had to tell the world about his dear friend.

“After the accident in Turn 4 of the Daytona 500, we’ve lost Dale Earnhardt.”

All who spoke, including the trauma doctor who was among the first on the scene, shared in the same numb presentation as the rest in the room.

Shortly after the conclusion of the press conference, I needed to go for a walk. Inside the side room that held all of those press kits, I ran into NASCAR legend Ned Jarrett holding court with a couple of reporters. I listened in as he gracefully shared his own feelings about losing an icon. Jarrett, known for his gentleman-like presentation was so eloquent, but mired in similar grief as so many around the sport.

I continued my walk and realized I needed to get my job done. Among my tasks was writing Earnhardt’s obituary.

“Dale Earnhardt, hailed by many as the greatest stock car driver of all time, died Sunday from injuries suffered in an accident on the final lap of the Daytona 500. The seven-time Winston Cup champion was 49.,” was the opening of the obit. I stared at and repeatedly read those words 100 times before finishing the obituary, one I just never imagined having to write.

I wrote two stories and delivered them to Walt before deadline. From there I made my way back to my hotel in Ormond Beach, to get rest before flying back to Virginia the next morning. The familiar drive took me past Halifax Medical Center and provided what I can only label as the most eerie feeling I’d experienced. There wasn’t a crowd and no traffic, but just passing the hospital provided a feeling I don’t care to replicate.

Unfortunately, I needed to drive by it again the next morning. Without the darkness of Sunday evening, it wasn’t quite as bad.

I returned to Lynchburg and my office to write my final column for the paper, which was a pontification about the impact Big E’s death might have on the young racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. The first line was “There’s just something about the way a southern boy calls his dad, ‘Diddy.’”

In the column, I envisioned what it would be like to lose my own father, something that did occur 14 years after I wrote that column. Our dads were the same age and we carried similar reverence to trying to please them. It was an easy column to write and received more feedback from my readers than any I’d ever written.

Plate 2001

When I left the paper for good a few days later, my friend Carlton, who had more than 40 years working in the printing press area of the paper at the time, gifted me the 1A cover and the sports section cover together on a burned plate (what is used to actually print the paper). I had it framed in protected glass but it sits in storage as it’s a tough one to display for a multitude of emotions. I keep it for its connection to my history, and the very small link that history had to an absolute legend.

The working infield at Daytona International Speedway carries almost no resemblance to its layout on Feb. 18, 2001. I attribute that as a primary reason it was easier to return to DIS over the years following that crash. I also think that’s why the memories of that day are cemented in my mind, as the lion’s share of memories from the famed speedway since that time came against a different backdrop.

The NASCAR industry, one I remain very fond of, was very good to me. As I note that, I’m absolutely certain that none of it would have happened without Dale Earnhardt. It’s not a direct link, but it’s a real one. Simply put, if there was no Big E, there would not have existed the fandom that drove many decisions I made to get into the sport.

Among the follow up questions always asked when Earnhardt came up in conversations was if I ever had the opportunity to meet Big E. I did, several times, in the 20 months I was around the sport before his death. And I have a few of the interviews I conducted with him still on audio tape tucked away in a safe deposit box.

I have a couple favorite stories during that time, but they all pale in comparison to the stories I’ve heard from many of Dale’s longtime friends in, and out of, the sport. It was as if I got to learn more about the legend after his death than I did before it, thanks to the first-person encounters from his friends (some of who have become my friends).

I get excited when I envision my kids, or grandkids, having the opportunity to hear many of those stories someday.

Wireless Trail Camera Review – 2020

Among the unquestionable greatest evolutions in the outdoor industry over the last two decades has been the trail camera. Days of struggling to get a 35mm roll of film to start in the film feed, and then rushing to Rite Aid to get the previous roll printed have been replaced by alerts on my phone, taking me to pictures of a deer 600 miles away traversing the well-beaten trail a mere seconds prior.


While nothing can replace those moments and memories afield, the extended season and treestand-like anticipation of the next photo make trail camera scouting extremely fun.

Where are the Reviews?

I’ve been dabbling in the world of cellular trail cameras for the last seven seasons. I won a pair of Bushnell Wireless Trophy Cam cameras and loved the technology – even those very early iterations. While extremely costly in upfront cost, I didn’t mind paying the monthly fee of $9.99 to check on hunting properties in two different states. It was extremely fun.

As the technology has advanced, with many manufacturers entering the market with their own versions of the wireless technology, the reliable research on the fresh products seems limited. I purchased two SpyPoint cellular cameras before the 2019 season and had decent success with them, but decided to add to the repertoire this offseason.

Simply put, figuring out which camera to get proved to be a taxing exercise.

I decided to create a review post on the different cameras that I have personally used. There are many others out there, but this post is to provide an initial reaction of the multiple cameras that are currently being used on properties I hunt.

I purchased all of the cameras and not one of them comes with any partnership with the manufacturer. I did try to research as much as I could before purchasing and will provide further detail on why I decided on the cameras I did as part of the review.

While I get into some of the specifications, this post is designed to give you the layman’s terms and feelings. I’ve learned that just because one camera has a massive MP image size, doesn’t mean it’s taking high-quality photos than a version that might be half as large images.

All of the photos included in this post are of the lower-resolution photos transmitted from the camera. All of them take higher-resolution photos that are stored on their SD cards.

Oh, and lastly, I’m going to review in the order that I started using them for no other reason than to help me keep up with all those that I’ve tried.

Here goes:

Bushnell Wireless Trophy Cam (the original!)

This baby was expensive for those who purchased it when they first came out.

Bushnell Trophy Cam Image of Camera

The “original” Bushnell Wireless Trophy Cam

If I recall, the camera alone ran $399 on the shelf and, like the lion’s share of cellular cameras, you purchased the monthly package to transmit your photos.

Here’s where it gets interesting. I have not purchased any of the later versions of the Bushnell wireless cameras.

The reason is directly pinned to the poor reviews it gets on multiple trail camera sites. I almost made the purchase of a couple more in the last two seasons, but couldn’t pull myself to do so based solely on those reviews.Bushnell Image

With respect to battery life, I never seemed to have an issue with the longevity with Lithium batteries being used in the camera. They easily outlasted the season of use.

What I can say is the old version, which can still be found on auction sites from time to time, was a winner.

SpyPoint Micro Link (Verizon / AT&T)

I use two of these (one Verizon service, one AT&T service) and have very similar service between the two. Operationally, they are identical. My experience over two seasons has been hit/miss. SpyPoint Micro LTE Cellular LinkI can have the same camera on the same tree, and have different experiences from one month to the next. I attribute a lot of that to the cell coverage on our farm, but also hear similar experiences from hunting buddies who own this camera.

The cost of this camera has trended down a bit over the last year as other cameras have entered the market. You can find them for $99 easily now. As far as setup goes, this is among the easiest to use. You essentially toggle a switch to setup and allow it to get service, then move it to “on”. That’s it. The user interface online is very straightforward. Among the qualms I have with this camera, and more so now that there are so many other options at this price point, are the lack of functions the camera has.

I did have some questions and minor issues when first setting up the camera and needed to work with SpyPoint customer service. SpyPointThis was in the summer of 2019 and I found it extremely tough to work with customer service representatives who had little/no experience afield with the cameras. They worked directly from a FAQ sheet and gave only the answers that were predetermined by the question(s) I asked. I’m not sure if SpyPoint has corrected that.

The battery life with each of the SpyPoints has been average. I started with Alkaline batteries that didn’t last an entire month with roughly 500-600 pictures. After switching to Lithium, I was able to more than double that use to almost three months.

I’m not a fan of any cellular camera plan that will not allow you to link your cameras together (essentially pay one fee for a set number of photos across all your cameras). For every SpyPoint camera purchased, you have to add a new camera to the plan and pay the transmission fees again. It’s a common gripe from a majority of the cameras available.

SpyPoint does have a free plan for all of its cameras, which provides 100 free photos a month. For a lot of hunters, this could be a fantastic and ideal option. It does allow you to turn the plan on/off.

I will say that, for the price point, I was pleased overall with the performance of the camera. Would it be my first choice today? Absolutely not. Was it a great option for around $100 in 2019? Yes.

Moultrie XV 7000i

The Moultrie 7000 became part of the repertoire following recommendations from two hunting buddies. Both have used this model for over a year and liked the quality of pictures and the user interface that Moultrie provided.

7000iI have the trigger set for the low sensitivity but I will tell you that this camera has a lot of false triggers. Whereas, I would venture more than 20 percent of the photos it takes have no wildlife in them. I would expect false triggers in a field edge or someplace where there is more movement, but I have this camera on a well-used trail within the woods.

The picture quality is very good, but the thumbnails it sends are weaker quality than several of the others that I’m currently using. I agree with my hunting buddies that the interface is solid, but we did have a couple days where the service provider was struggling to deliver photos from the camera. To its credit, Moultrie sent multiple alerts and messages informing users of the issue, and when it was resolved.

To this day, though, you can log on to the web hosting site for the Moultrie and your pictures fail to load. You can usually log back in later and find them, but it can be frustrating. 

I have alkaline batteries in this camera and through the first month-plus, and while taking a high-volume of photos a day, the battery bar shows 4/5 remaining, but only 61% of its life according to the Moultrie app. MoultrieAdditionally, it shows a weak signal (0%) but has had no problem sending photos. I’m going to switch this camera to transmit at specified times to, hopefully, support the battery life longevity.

Moultrie is among the cameras that offers an unlimited plan that will allow you to link multiple cameras to the same cost plan. That said, I opted for the $10 / 1000 images per month plan. That price point seems to be the industry standard for that volume of photos per camera.

Stealth Cam Fusion

This one happened quickly. 0081362800060_AWhile shopping at Sam’s Club, a normal swing through the outdoors section proved valuable when I saw a blister pack of the Fusion that included the camera, batteries, SD card and a free three months of service for Sam’s Club members. I was intrigued. The entire package was priced lower than you could find just the camera for at your national outdoors box store.

Fawn Falsh StealthCamAfter doing a quick review on the camera from my phone, I decided to give it a whirl. So far, I’ve been very pleased with it. I would argue its picture quality is akin to the Moultrie camera and I really like the user interface on the phone app. It shows where the camera is, has the obvious photo uploads, but also has an easy-to-follow photo tracker that shows you the tendencies in animal activity at the camera. I’m eager to see how that adjusts as we get nearer to the run.

Since the blister pack came with alkaline batteries, I’ve used them and after four weeks, the battery life is at 75 percent. StealthCam YoteI will definitely (similar to the Moultrie) go with Lithium batteries when it’s time to swap with this camera.

With respect to plans, I’m still on the unlimited free plan that came with it (thanks Sam’s Club) but will move to a plan that falls right into the same price point as all the others when it’s time to reup.

StealthCam 2I have this camera currently set in a location I’ve struggled to get service in the past. It has worked flawlessly with little signal issue. Clearly the coverage has improved in that area. That said, I did try the SpyPoint this year at this location and could not get it to transmit a photo.

Overall, very pleased with the Stealth Cam but recognize its pros and cons.

Tactacam Reveal

Let’s cut to the chase on this one. I am a big fan of this camera. I like the price and it easily outperforms the others when it comes to picture quality. Tactacam RevealWhile quite possibly swayed by my initial opinion, I also have a great deal of confidence in the continued updates Tactacam is making to the user interface (an area where this one started out behind the curve).

I read about the camera and wanted to try it out. In early August it was difficult to find any. A quick search just now showed it’s a little easier than it was a month ago, but it’s still on backorder at a number of places.

IMG_2621I think anyone would be hard pressed to find a $99 camera that outperforms this one! In fact, it outperforms the rest of my fleet.

It’s completely understandable that any camera is going to send a lower resolution thumbnail to save on battery life and ease of transmission. That said, even the thumbnails for this camera arrive looking great.

Nighttime photos for most cameras can be a challenge, but this camera might be the best quality nigh pictures I’ve ever encountered, cellular camera or not.IMG_2623

The first thing that impressed me when setting this camera up was the signal strength where I placed one of them. It’s an area that I’ve tried cellular cameras for several years and had zero luck getting photos to transmit. When I set this camera up, it showed full signal strength. In reading some of the reviews prior to purchase, I remain a little bit skeptical about it being true “full” signal strength, but I can tell you that this camera has not missed a beat in sending photos immediately.

IMG_2622While this camera doesn’t have a true “link” plan for multiple cameras, it does provide discounts when you place multiple cameras on the plan.

As previously noted, this camera’s biggest weakness came it the user interface. Toggling between pictures was difficult and if you’re someone who deletes a lot of photos, it can be more challenging than other cameras.

Tactacam Reveal has a passionate community online and they were quick to make updates and they continue to keep users updated with new iterations of the interface. For me, personally, I think it’s very close to everything I need right now. IMG_2624The recent improvements allowing you to swipe between photos was a welcomed update and I don’t need a whole lot beyond your basic needs.

The interface opens with a homepage that aggregates all of your cameras’ photos in a feed timeline. I like that, but recognize not everyone will. If you want to look at an individual camera feed, you traverse to the cameras and do so.

I outfitted both of my Tactacam cameras with lithium batteries and expect both to outlast the 2020 season.


Among the areas I didn’t dive into very far was the setup of each camera. I decided not to as I truly thought each of them was easy to get started. If I had to say which was easiest, it’s hard to beat the SpyPoint for startup, but none was difficult whatsoever. I think anyone with any digital/e-commerce experience can set one of these cameras up.

I think purchase habits are a strong testament to informing others on a recommendation. While I don’t like picking winners/losers and can honestly state that all of my cameras have performed well for me overall, if I had to purchase any camera in the market today, I would opt for the Tactacam Reveal. I think that decision would be the same if the camera were 50 percent higher priced than its current $99.

I hope this post helped you and expect the cellular trail camera market to continue its evolution. What has your experience been? Share your comments below!

2018 AHT Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again! Alright you procrastinating gift giver, get off of your duff and log on to the world wide web and make that purchase of something the outdoorsman in your life is going to be happy about this holiday season.

A friendly reminder to look at the former gift guides done on this site as a number of the gifts are still relevant! Click here to access all that have been on this site in recent years!

Without further ado, here is the 2018 version of the A Hunters Tales Holiday Gift Guide!

Get ‘em a Hooker – Skull Hooker

A couple of skull hookers in use (including the Kansas 11-pointer without his nose!).

This is a gift I was first introduced to by AHT contributor (who owes our readers a piece or two about his hunting success in 2018 … yes, he was successful again!) Greg Johnston. The skull hooker keeps your European mount stable and presents your trophy with artistic flare. Let me tell you what else it does: it keeps your Euro from taking a nose-first dive into a concrete floor after you “have to move it a tad.” Yes, I was the idiot that broke the sinus bones off of a pretty 11-point buck I killed in Kansas several years ago. The skull hooker wasn’t around then, but I’m thankful it is now!

I’ve Got Buck Fever!

This one comes with a story. We were sitting around deer camp last month, swapping stories about seasons gone by, when we found a bottle of doe urine that was, as best as we could recall, at least 12 years old. Of course, we had to open it and see what aroma remained. It was nasty!

The idea of synthetic scents is intriguing to me, primarily to combat that very situation. Conceivably, a synthetic scent should not change its chemical makeup over time and carry its intended scent for the long haul.

Think of it this way, have you ever pulled that bottle of Brut off the dresser from 1987 and seen if the scent remains the same? I have. And it does. But I still resist the urge to wear it the way I did when my hair was feathered and impressing teenage girls was my intent!

Image borrowed from Buck Fever Synthetics

Buck Fever has a long list of products designed for specific uses, all with expected use and shelf lives that exceed their original counterparts. There are a number of elements of the theory behind Buck Fever’s products. I recommend visiting their site to learn more about their products.

They also have scent elimination products!

I’m eager to try some of these scents on a special product I’m working on that I HOPE will make the 2019 Gift Guide (more to come, if my field research works!).

Archery Target

You’d think stopping arrows would have engineering limitations, but believe it or not, the world of layered targets, and more specifically self-healing layered targets, has come a long way in the last decade. The prices are still a little bit high,but most of the newer targets on the market will last a number of years. Essentially, you’re investing in a target that will handle hundreds of thousands of shots.

A number of great options are available from great target makers like Rinehart, Dead Bullseye and Bulldog Targets. A quick search on Google can land you in the right spot to compare sizes and prices!

Head Lamps Always Win

The hunter in your life probably already has one. It doesn’t matter. Buy them another – I promise he or she will not mind. I really like the Cabela’s brand pictured here (it’s actually a Cabela’s licensed product made by Princeton). It has adjustable brightness that allows you to control your beam based on the situation. I’ve never had to change the batteries in mine and, if needed, the brightest beam is very, very bright! It’s a tad pricey, but a great investment.

Deer Tour T-Shirt

Image borrowed from Legendary Whitetails

If your outdoorsman is cool, they know about The Hunting Public. If they’re not cool, tell them about the boys from the newly popular online hunting show (available on YouTube). They also have a “Tour T-Shirt” from Legendary Whitetails that shows the group’s main characters in caricature riding in a car that has created a persona of its own (the Smurf). Sadly, the shirts were designed before Ted became a hit on the show – I’m betting he makes the 2019 Deer Tour T-shirt!

Cooking Thermometer

Cooking wild game is part of the fun of being an outdoorsman, rounding out the whole “field to fork” cycle that hunters enjoy. There are a number of options available, but consider getting your outdoorsman a new digital cooking thermometer. Several now offer Bluetooth technology allowing you to keep track of your temperatures remotely from your mobile device. They’re very handy and make a great gift.

Capture the moment with a Tactacam

Image borrowed from Tactacam.com

Memorializing your hunts, especially the successful ones, has never been more popular. The Tactacam is a video camera that can be mounted onto your weapon, or body, in order to capture the moments that matter most. If you’re considering the camera, also consider the respective mounts your hunter will need to take the camera to the field. Several retailers now sell the Tactacam, including the ever-popular duo of Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops.

Gift Cards

A reminder for 2018!!! Wondering which gift certificates to get for your hunter? A reminder that Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s are now part of the same ownership and gift certificates at either retailer are interchangeable. That stated, a gift card also makes a great gift!

Dear ol’ Deer Camp: 2018 Version

I shot the biggest buck I’ve ever taken off of our family farm this year. He’s not among the largest I’ve ever taken and barely would rest inside the top-10 by looking only at his antler size. But he’s special and will go down as one of the most memorable.

But that’s not what this recap post is about.


One of the most picturesque deer drags I recall!


It’s about spending the opening week of New York’s gun season with my family and seeing the sunrise on the season from a tree on our home farm for the first time in many years.

It’s about the cadre relationship that hunting camp provides.

It’s about cold mornings where the fireplace at camp feels a whole lot better than Mother Nature’s bitter touch on your cheeks.

And it’s about the reverence for a camp diary.

Each fall, many deer publications publish stories about deer camp. I love reading them all. Stories of the brotherhood that exists when families and extended families come together in the big woods of the north country, or in Michigan’s upper peninsula, … or anywhere else … have always caught my attention.


One of the spectacular views Mother Nature provided

This year was no different. I read an easily relatable story about deer camp, written in first-person by Dan Ladd (“The Joy of Deer Camp”) in New York State Conservationist magazine and got me excited before I even stepped foot into camp.

We weren’t necessarily at full capacity in our deer camp this year, but we had a bigger group than we’ve had in a long time. My brother Doug, uncle Paul, cousin Nicholas and nephew Matthew, represented three generations of family. My young son, Reid, also joined the group for a day of sharing the family woods!

Buck photo

My brother Doug and me sharing in the success!

Once a rookie of the camp himself, uncle Paul now represents the old guard. He married into our family over four decades ago. A “city guy” who married a farm girl in my late aunt, Paul had broad enough shoulders to join her brothers in camp, taking all of the ridicule that comes with being new to the sport of hunting. I’m happy to report he acclimated quite well and became a fixture at camp, to the pleasure of my late father and our family.

Uncle Paul shared stories this year about his first years in camp. Needless to say, he experienced a great deal of ridicule and good-natured hazing that would typically be reserved for a rookie joining a sports team. I’m a few years older than his son, Nicholas, who has been a mainstay at camp since he was a young teenager.


From (L) to (R): Brother Doug, me, Cousin Nick, Uncle Paul

My nephew, Matthew, came into camp riding a three-year streak of punching his tag (and was able to fill it again this year)!

There were drinks. There were stories. There were fun memories of our family members no longer with us. The pool table, even with its minor off-kilter intricacies, became proving grounds one evening. The poker chips had the dust blown off of them for an evening of cards.


Another beautiful view afforded by the snow.

Memories of successful hunts that culminated with shoulder mounts in the cabin were bandied about. Our camp diary, an invaluable asset that has 40 years of history documented, was utilized as a reference point a number of times. Uncle Paul has served as the primary scribe of the diary over its entire existence. Others add only when he’s not available to do so.

It’s often discussed, but there is just something cleansing for the soul when it comes to the time at deer camp. Having experienced some semblance of camp across a number of states, there are many common threads that connect the spirit of deer camps everywhere. Those who have experienced it know it and no documentation of deer camp can do it perfect justice.


My son, Reid, joining in the fun on a cold, cold morning!

Perhaps that’s why I remain a sucker to the stories – to pull those parts that carry a similar look and feel to my own experiences.

I look forward to introducing my own kids to it.

There also were successes. The best part of those during deer camp is the ability for everyone to bask in that feats. In this case, everyone played an important role in the process – especially with over a foot of snow on the ground!


Cousin Nick and I share a photo before taking to the woods.

Of course, the week culminates with figuring out who won camp’s big buck contest! This year, my buck was fortunate enough to take the honor.

Once the bags are packed and camp is cleaned, departure day comes with its sadness. More than 50 weeks of great anticipation and mental reps have ended with “goodbyes.” The countdown, though, to next season’s deer camp begins.