Confessions of a Deer Widow – By Elaine West
This “Sand in My Sheets” first appeared in NorthernIslander in Nov. of 2010
For several days before the opening of deer season, you can spot the Emerald Isle long before it comes into the harbor. The neon-orange garb of hunters on deck is visible miles from shore, even through the foggy mist that clung to the island on November 15.
It’s a rugged looking group that clambers off the boat. Many are already sporting a day’s growth of whiskers in preparation of the male ritual of fall. They haul armloads of guns and hefty coolers into the backs of pick-ups and head into the wilds.
Most women on the Island look forward to their men folk going off to buck camp. The majority of males stay away for several days and the gals enjoy their enforced bachelorhood immensely. They can clean their houses – and for some strange reason, they stay clean for several days. They can eat Cornflakes for dinner if they want and watch LMN (the Ladies Menopause Network) instead of the War Channel. They hold “Deer Widow” parties, where one can feast on chocolate, play games, watch chick flicks and crab about how silly men act when they get buck fever.
“I don’t know how much hunting they actually do out there,” a young deer widow said recently at such a gathering. “I think they mainly play poker and drink beer.”
“They certainly eat well,” said another. “I spent three days cooking so he could take along ready-to-eat meals to their cabin.”
Upon hearing this, I pouted a bit. My husband likes his own easy chair too much to head off to the south end of the island. He prefers to stay at home and hunt on our property – close enough to come home for all meals, create messes with his mud-covered hunting boots and take back control of the TV’s remote at dusk.
Here is a man who will pack his hunting clothes in a bag of apples and cedar so “no human scent will disturb the deer,” yet heads into the woods each dawn with a thermos of aromatic coffee and a pocket full of rank, smelly cigars.
Normal household routines and noises are discouraged during the first few critical days of the season. God forbid the sound of a vacuum should frighten away some shy, 160-pound, antlered creature. I had my hair trimmed on opening day and my hairdresser dried my new hairdo at her salon. “At least you won’t be making noise with your blow-dryer today,” she said understandingly.
My dogs suffer through this period as well. When they need a walk, I don an orange cap, tie colored bandanas on them and head to the lakeshore. I pray a lot, too – hoping no one will mistake us for a herd heading down to Lake Michigan for a mid-day drink.
Occasionally, I catch a glimpse of my own Daniel Boone heading into town to the hardware for a variety of hunting supplies. There must be new batteries for the flashlight, and (one of this year’s most popular items) a target of Osama bin Landen for sighting in his gun. Between all these purchases and a hunting license, I figure the buck he finally bagged probably ran about $29 a pound.
This year, my hubby-hunter tried to con me into helping with the butchering of the beast by calling it, “quality family time.” Visions of Ma and Pa Ingalls filled my head as I helped him haul the creature home and hang it up to cure. I smugly thumbed my nose at Martha Stewart as I bent over the carcass, painstakingly removing every shred of silver skin. By the time my oven had run continuously for 24 hours curing jerky, I was rethinking the whole affair.
I have a plan for next year. I’m going to get a group of the ladies together and we’ll rent a cabin on the far end of the island. We’ll stock it with casseroles, classic videos like Steel Magnolias, and a good supply of chocolate and white wine. What do you want to bet that there won’t be a male or a buck that comes within a mile of us? And that, my friends, is exactly what “Doe Camp” is all about.