Deer Camp Make Over

These “man caves” are designed for the least amount of aesthetics and the maximum amount of ease...until your wife gets involved.

I've noticed that many of my hunting buddies’ "deer camp" all seem to look the same. Either it's a small shed cozy enough for getting out of the weather or it's a series of "past their normal lifespan" travel trailers circled around the great meeting assembly (fire pit). Either way, these “man caves” (I apologize to you lady hunters...) are designed for the least amount of aesthetics and the maximum amount of ease (i.e. no major cleaning required). Such was my life during the 15 plus years I hunted at a friend of mine’s place in Hunt, Texas.

We had a mobile home built sometime in the early 1960’s. It kept us dry but a series of unfortunate events such as water leaks, bad weather, burglars, and illegal immigration occupation, all left their toll on the physical condition of the camp. Never the less, this was entirely adequate for me, my buddies and my two son’s (who could live in a card board box as long as someone kept shoving food into it). I should point out that my wife of 13+ years had never once been with me to the ranch, nor did she ever express even the slightest interest in going. She seemed to relish the idea that I would be gone for the better part of a weekend or even better, a week. If I took the boys with me, then that was even better. There was no logical reason for her lack of enthusiasm about this place of retreat. It seems the only factor prohibiting her interest, involved visions of mice, vermin and other unsociable (or sometimes sociable) creatures making their way into the trailer. I suppose this was due to the boys coming back home from a work weekend or a weekend of hunting with stories of the coon in the bathroom, or the mice running across the living room floor (which was dispatched with a shoe by my then 4 year old).

About three years ago, I was finally able to get my own property near of Rocksprings, Texas. When I bought the property, it had a portable shed, 12 x 16 with a loft. This was very nice and acceptable by my standards, since there was a really nice outhouse, a working Coleman stove and a pot-bellied stove. This is the point where my life makes a turn, for the better and worse. The better part was that the love of my life (no not deer) was finally taking an active interest in my favorite past time. The worst part was that she expects things to be little different when she is spending the night.

I thought my hunting experience would continue as before, just at a new location. However, like most of my thoughts where my wife is involved, this proved to be incorrect. I should point out that the state of Texas is a community property state. My wife is very aware of this fact and reminds me repeatedly “what’s mine is hers and what’s hers, I better keep my hands off of”. Now that she is a “land owner”, she has initiated a series of events that have produced numerous backaches and lots of sweat. She started out subtly at first. She just wanted to “tidy” the place up a bit. The potbellied stove had to go (she’s got allergies). Water well had to be dug (she didn’t like the idea of showering using a hang up water bag that was filled with water obtained from a windmill watering trough up the road). Water well required electricity be brought in. She also hung curtains on the windows and made me throw away the cots and foam “mattresses” left by the previous owner. I thought I made it through the first year pretty good. I also thought that after the first year, she would lose interest and go back to shopping while me and the boys went to the ranch. As usual, I was wrong. So wrong...

Over the next two years, we built another 16’x24’ barn with a loft. Turned the previous cabin into a bathroom, and connected the two with a hallway. Lucky for me, we had Tuff Shed build the barn “shelled out”. That means all I had to do was the plumbing, electricity, insulation, sheet-rock, and carpeting (yes, she made me put carpet in it...). I should also point out that “plumbing” required a real bathtub and shower combo, a bathroom sink and kitchen sink. By the time it was completed, I almost didn’t even want to see the property again. I’m 40+ and don’t have quite the stamina I used to. My only saving grace was the fact that my son was 17 at the time and was quite the worker, once you finally managed to pry his butt out of the bed in the morning.

You would think at this point, my life would return to some sense of normalcy and I could concentrate on my real focus, such as getting the deer stands/feeders ready, setting up watering stations, clearing shooting areas, etc. This was not to be. As usual, my sense of priorities and my wife’s sense of priorities vary widely. It was at this point, that my “hunting buddy” made the remark to my wife “boy, all this place needs now is a working toilet”. It is truly amazing how one statement can make such a difference in a man’s life. My wife picked up on this idea and ran with it like Earl Campbell for a goal line. Much like Earl, she was not afraid of who she hurt in the process. With much futility, I tried to explain the obstacles involved with a “working” septic. These obstacles included such items as the “rock” located in “Rocksprings”. It turns out that Rocksprings has only one rock. Unfortunately, it’s everywhere. The thought of digging a septic in solid limestone/flint, created visions of pain and unending suffering flashing through my mind. I also tried to point out that we had a perfectly good “outhouse” that had been installed by the previous owners. It really was a nice outhouse as far as outhouses are concerned. My wife failed to see any point in my arguments. She somehow felt that her fear of spiders, mice, coons, and snakes outweighed any objections I may have or any resultant bodily injuries sustained by myself while trying to undertake this endeavor. You would think that by this point, I would have put my foot down and declared “enough is enough”. Well, I didn’t make it through the first 14 years of marriage by putting my foot down only to have it chopped off. Therefore, I conceded to put in a septic.

Although I initially thought this would be one of the toughest projects I had worked on to date, I had absolutely NO idea what I was stepping into. In retrospect, I should have called a qualified septic man owning the proper equipment and having the proper experience in making holes in this type of ground. Unfortunately, at this point my budget was stretched at its limits. Since my hunting buddy had been the one to put this ludicrous idea into my wife’s head, I decided he should endure whatever punishment I had to endure. What are friends for right? We assumed that by purchasing an electric jackhammer, we should be able to knock this out in a couple of weekends. By the way, I am absolutely terrible at estimating the amount of time it will take me to do anything. Needless to say, it took considerably longer. All started well enough.

We purchased the largest electric jackhammer I could find. After making the necessary electrical connections (no, it wouldn’t plug into a standard 110 outlet), we proceeded to start digging the hole. Initially, shards and chunks of limestone and light dirt readily broke apart and through a tag team effort we had the outline of the hole dug in about 10. The dimensions required for this hole were 36” wide, 40” deep and 20’ long. Our first 10 hours netted a hole of the appropriate length and width but only about 4” deep. As it turns out the first 4” was the easiest. Little did I know that limestone gets noticeably denser the deeper it is beneath the surface. In addition, it is often tinged with large amount of flint. Have you ever seen what a jackhammer does when it hits flint with 1400 hits per minute? It’s not pretty, and is the reason why eye protection is a wise investment. A flack jacket wouldn’t hurt either.

Our second day of digging proceeded slowly with much less enthusiasm than the day before. After about 4 hours, there was a strange odor emanating from the jackhammer. This was quickly followed by noticeably less RPM from the motor, which further resulted in an overall sluggishness. Initially, I thought it was just overheating. Therefore, we took a much-needed break (as I was somewhat overheated myself). A few hours later, upon returning to the task at hand, it was quickly noticed that the jackhammer had not made nearly the recovery that my and my hunting buddy had. Therefore, we went about doing other needed work around the property with plans to come back the next weekend, after taking back this obviously defective jackhammer for a replacement. To make a long story short, this same scenario repeated itself 4 more times for a total of 5 burned out jackhammers over a period of several months. I should point out that during this time we had managed to make this hole a respectable 18” deep by this time. Whoopee!!!!

The 6th jackhammer obtained was of a different model and the clerk told me it was a very reliable model. However, I wasn’t feeling all warm and fuzzy about this 6th attempt and found myself finding more and more excuses not to go to the property. By this time, my hunting buddy (the one with the big mouth), had also had enough. He told me that if I could find some heavy-duty machinery to dig the hole, he would pay for it! It’s truly amazing how much work it takes to pry open some wallets.... I subsequently found a bobcat with a 700 lb breaker hammer on it. In six hours I completed the remainder of the hole. The next day, I had a fully working septic along with the compliments of a very appreciative wife.

Since then, there have only been a few trips up to the property, where my wife has not accompanied me. She truly enjoys it out there. Believe it or not, she actually sat in the deer stand with me last Thanksgiving. Of course, I couldn’t shoot anything with her in the stand. She was busy watching a couple of yearlings chase each other around while their mother ate acorns. It does not seem that she is losing interest in property as I previously thought she would. Yes, I have endured many physical hardships, and I have spent a lot of money I don’t think I would have otherwise spent. But truth be told, my cabin is very nice and I don’t have many regrets (other than not renting the bobcat sooner...). I’m proud to show it off to my buddies, and I don’t even mind the curtains hanging in the windows (at least she used camo material). I also don’t have to think of a reason to go to the property during the off-season anymore. Usually, she has already thought about it before me.

I have just a few words of advice to everyone. If your wife doesn’t currently share your enthusiasm for hunting or the great outdoors, take great care and precaution if you try to coax her over to the “wild” side. You may be in for more than you thought.

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