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The Hunting Camp

The family hunting camp is a long-standing tradition in Ontario, seems every kid in our small farming community had a father, grandfather and uncles who were part of a clan gathered in a shack in the woods during the first two weeks of November. Hunting and the hunting camp were just a normal part of life to us.

The original family hunting camp around 1990 give or take a year.

The first camp origins involved my Grandfather and his three boys. I believe it was 1982 and it was a rectangular box that was quite full with the four of them. Modifications did not take long, a larger kitchen, a bedroom for Gramps, then after he passed away and new members joined another bedroom to eliminate, or at least reduce a member’s snoring issue. The land was layered in ridges, hardwoods and low-lying swamp, it was home to big bodied whitetail deer, moose and ruffed grouse. On a clear night you could hear the timber wolves howling at the moon.

Prepping decoys the night before a duck hunt at the new hunting camp.

The land we hunted was leased from Domtar Forestry and with that came rules, one of those being that there could only be one hunter per 100 acres leased. With just over seven hundred acres we were outgrowing our territory so in the mid-nineties we jumped on the chance to lease another large tract of land Domtar had just purchased. The new camp came at a time in life when I was starting to grow as a hunter. It’s where I really started to learn about deer outside of magazines and books, when and where to find ruffed grouse and the inklings of how to go about hunting ducks. It was a place that taught me to value and respect the land and its resources, that all animals had a place and the tremendous responsibility of carrying a firearm afield.

A successful first week of deer hunting at the new camp circa 2000.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been back to that camp with its unique smell of wood smoke and cigars. At home in the west I wake early, fill the travel mug and thermos with coffee and drive back into the mountains before the sun will rise. Climbing up mountains with a pack on in the dark to be in place before the sun rises, it’s a very different hunting experience, especially when most of it is done solo. While hunting is something generally done alone the essence of the hunting camp is really the people there and one day I’d like to get back to that.

See you on the water or the mountains.

-Matthew Mallory


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