By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
This weekend, some friends and I are renewing a hunting camp tradition that has its roots in every little boy’s exploration of the outdoors.
From the time we are small and first incorporate outdoor adventures into our imagination, there’s the drive to camp out, cook out, to hunt and hang out with our friends, out where the air is clear, the timber is open and the only lights in the night sky come from the moon and the stars.
From then on, every trip to the woods is, in some way, an attempt to realize that dream. Whether it’s the simplest overnight at Davis Lake or the most involved trip to a far-flung corner of the world, every outdoor adventure we undertake once the responsibilities of adulthood have set in is an attempt to reach the mythical goals we established for ourselves way back when. By the time we accrue the wherewithal to plan and execute real journeys, we’re usually too busy to take them, but that’s what makes events like this weekend special for me.
One of my friends has some family land he and his brother manage in south Mississippi, sandy soil where small creeks flow into the Chickasawhay River and the longleaf pine roots run deep, but the family roots run deeper. There’s a camp house with enough electricity to run a kitchen stove and a Philco radio, a porch to sit on and an indoor fireplace to hang around when the mosquitoes get too bad. Turkeys and deer use this ground and spark our hunting efforts, but the primary goal of the weekend is to spend a few hours being 12 years old again.
Once upon a time when we were little boys, my friends and I spent every dollar our chore money would bring at the Army surplus store. We bought disarmed grenades, Ka-Bar knives, canteens, mess kits, web belts, knapsacks and more. One of my buddies had a complete World War II pot-style helmet that came with a liner and a web net cover. One of us would wear the steel helmet while the other wore the liner. The outer steel half was so heavy you could watch it stunt the growth of the wearer before your eyes. This gear served as background props for hundreds of imaginary engagements with the enemy and, later, as our first rude tools for hunting (minus the helmet).
Outdoor gear has come a long way since then, though the industry does seem to go through regressions from time to time. Nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to snake-proof boots. The first pair of snake-proof boots I ever had were almost comical in stiffness. Take a length of iron stove pipe three feet long and put a 90-degree bend in it a foot from one end. Use a hammer to crimp the opening on the short end closed, making sure to leave random ragged edges exposed inside for added comfort. Make a pair of these that are un-insulated and not waterproof but still weigh more than the biggest gobbler in the woods and you’ve got a good representation of the first set I ever put on.
Conversely, the pair I’ve used for the past three seasons is as comfortable as good tennis shoes and just as light. When one of the friends I’ll be hunting with this weekend asked my recommendation on a new pair of snake boots, I suggested the brand and model I’ve been wearing and set in to find him a pair and, since the model I have is so good, they quit making it last season. I’ll leave you to guess what the company’s replacement model resembles but, when I hand them over to the guy this afternoon, I’m going to give him a can of 3-in-1 oil to go with them.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Productions for Mossy Oak Brand Camo in West Point.