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How to Build a Portable Hunting Camp
Fond Tent Camp Memories
I’ve been a deer hunter since 1974 and the greatest memories I have while deer hunting came from traveling to northern Michigan before the opening day of deer season and going to “deer camp” Deer camp means a lot of things to a lot of people, but most will consist of enjoying the company of friends and family.
In the early 80’s I met and began hunting with a group of friends that I would end up hunting with every year for the next fifteen years. We were all in our early twenties and quite the rowdy bunch initially, and after getting banned from one of their grandfather’s cabin we began looking for an alternative. This began the evolution of what would become our portable hunting camp and fortunately the group of us as deer hunters. This evolution would see us from closing the local pubs and getting out in the woods at the crack of NOON to in bed by 10:00pm on stand an hour before first light.
The Benefits of a Portable Hunting Camp
Besides being a lot of fun, a portable hunting camp is extremely effective at increasing the success rate of individual hunters. With a little homework hunters can find areas of low hunter numbers and a suitable number of deer. There are areas of my home state of Michigan that have quite a bit of hunting pressure, but now that our camp was portable we knew we could go anywhere we wanted and getting away from that hunting pressure was our first goal.
We decided on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan because of its desolation and expanses of wilderness areas. This was before the information age so we wrote to wildlife biologists in every county of the U.P. and in a matter of weeks we had plenty of information to start our research. Nowadays emails and online maps will greatly speed up this research but the results will be just as valuable.
Cost is another benefit of the portable hunting camp. Being in our early twenties, we didn’t have a lot of extra spending money. A portable hunting camp is not only an effective way to put yourself where the deer are, it really is pretty low cost if split between members of a hunting party. You don’t need to go hog wild to get started and you can add to the camp equipment year after year. You’ll be surprised with the setup you end up with after a few years.
What You Need to Build a Portable Hunting Camp
A Wall Tent
The first item you’ll obviously need is a tent. This is going to probably be the biggest expense you’ll have in building your portable hunting camp. We went in to the building of our camp as a group of four and we divided the cost evenly between us. We purchased a 16’ x 32’ used army tent from an army surplus store. You’ll want to get a tent with vertical walls and a ceiling height to allow you to walk around unencumbered as well as hang your hunting clothes to dry if necessary.
One word of advice; if you can afford an outfitters tent then go for it! Our tent was not only heavy it also took up a lot of space. We built our frame out of two-by-fours and four-by-fours which also were quite heavy and required us to have quite a long trailer to haul everything with. You can also purchase a lightweight frame for an outfitters tent that will make setup much easier. Get the biggest tent you can afford! Size is comfort and hopefully you’ll use the tent for years to come so invest wisely.
Wood Burning or Similar Stove
Depending on the climate you live in you’ll also probably need a way to heat the tent. We chose a wood burning stove. Again, not having much extra money, we purchased a kit to build a wood stove out of a 55 gallon barrel that would last for about three years before needing another barrel. This stove served us well despite cooling quickly after the fire burned out. There are many other types of outfitter stoves that will do an even better job. To vent the stove we purchased 10’ of dryer type vent pipe and vented the smoke outside.
You’re going to have to haul your portable hunting camp to your hunting destination and unless you have a convoy of pickup trucks you’ll need a trailer. A simple utility trailer can be used to carry the equipment and are really not all that expensive.
Most other equipment you’ll need is regular camping equipment. Lanterns, cots, sleeping bags, camp stove and a couple of folding tables are really all I can think of the get you started on the right foot. Pots and pans can be brought from home as well as cooking utensils. When not by a water source you’ll want to have plenty of water containers for drinking, washing and cooking, etc…
As you can see, a portable hunting camp requires some planning but the benefits can really outweigh the hardship of getting everything organized. After you pack everything a few times it will become a lot easier.
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