Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

By Doug Smith

Star Tribune

Staples, Minn. The rustic one-room log cabin is nestled near a
clearing in the woods.

Inside, a small cast-iron wood stove keeps the chill off on cold
November nights. A propane camping lantern dangles from the
ceiling, and blaze orange clothing hangs on the walls.

Cots and sleeping bags are stashed in the corner. Rifles lean
against the weathered logs outside.

Welcome to deer camp 2001.

Everything is here, except the guys. There are none. And they
won’t be coming. This deer camp is for women only.

For 25 years, Marion Larson, Marie Meyer, Jane Moening, and Lana
Regal have opened Minnesota’s deer season at their cozy camp in the
woods near Staples. The women, all from Braham, have hunted
together even longer.

They are avid deer hunters, good friends and partners in their
hunting cabin and 40 acres of fields and woods that they bought in
1976.

It’s a classic camp, hidden back a mile off a dirt road. Access
is by a twisting forest trail. There’s no water, no electricity, no
phone. The privy out back has a slight list but functions just
fine, thank you.

While short on modern conveniences, there is plenty of solitude,
pines and good company.

And sometimes deer.

“It’s just a real special piece of the world. We love it,” said
Meyer, 54, who, like the others, grew up in a hunting family and
has been toting a gun since she was a kid. She and Moening, 53,
have been hunting together since they were in high school.

“It’s our haven,” Meyer said.

All four women have bagged deer at their camp over the years,
but the deer population in the area historically hasn’t been
high.

“Sparse,” is how Meyer characterized it opening weekend, though
a neighbor shot three deer on opening day.

But the women had their chances this year.

Meyer was in her treestand at the edge of a honey-colored grass
field on opening day when a doe ambled out of the woods into the
clearing about 150 to 200 yards away. She has bagged the most deer
over the years, and her companions consider her the best shot.

She fired more times than she cares to recount while the doe
ambled across the field. “It didn’t have a clue where I was,” Meyer
said.

But she might just as well have been shooting blanks.

“I’ve never missed so bad. There’s no explanation,” she said
while her friends chuckled and ribbed her good-naturedly over a
late-morning breakfast of pancakes and sausage.

Larson, 72, spotted two deer from her stand the next day but
also missed with her Winchester .30-30. “I should have had one,”
she said.

Larson was introduced to hunting by her dad. “I started hunting
ducks and other game birds when I was 12,” she said. Her late
husband, Jim, also was an avid hunter, but she didn’t start deer
hunting herself until age 38. She’s been hooked ever since.

Though the women could have hunted all week, traditionally they
only hunt on the opening weekend. “When we retire, we’ll be here a
week,” Moening said.

This year, they went home without a deer.

But they weren’t too disappointed. All agree there’s much more
to deer hunting than shooting a deer.

“Getting a deer is frosting on the cake,” said Larson. “We go
in streaks; sometimes we don’t get any, other times we get two or
three.”

Last year they shot two.

Regal bagged her first deer last year, a big doe.

“I like to hunt,” she said. “But it’s the quiet beauty of
nature and being out here that’s also great. The full moon last
night was gorgeous. It’s a wonderful time to bond with each other.
And it’s so beautiful. We’ve never missed a year.”

The male hunters in the families don’t ask to come along.

“It’s our time,” Regal said.

She teaches phy. ed. at Braham High; Meyer is activities
director there. And Larson is a retired Braham teacher. Moening
works at St. John’s.

Like the others, Regal grew up in a hunting family, hunting
ducks and pheasants on the family farm near Dassel. Her 80-year-old
father still hunts deer, and her mother, also 80, accompanied the
group to deer camp until the past two years.

The women are outdoors enthusiasts in the truest sense: ethical,
dedicated, and passionate about the outdoors. When they’re not
hunting, they golf, hike, bike, paddle and cross-country ski
together.

There’s no alcohol in camp. Hunter safety is stressed. (No
loaded guns are allowed in the cabin.) There are friendly card
games, homemade stew and good conversation.

“We’re not a party group,” said Regal, 50. “We’re here because
we enjoy hunting and each other.”

“It’s a great time to unwind,” Meyer said.

They are appreciative that they were exposed to hunting.

“When I grew up, there weren’t many women hunting,” Larson
said. “I feel so fortunate that my father gave me the opportunity.
He wanted us to enjoy what he had enjoyed. You gain such an
appreciation for what we have out there how wonderful our woods and
waters are.”

Said Meyer: “I think there are more females hunting and fishing
than there used to be. But they need to be given the
opportunity.”

The Braham buddies bought the cabin and land from a young couple
who built the place and were living there with their small child.
The group took one look at the 16-by-18-foot Alaskan-style cabin,
built with logs placed vertically, rather than horizontally, and
fell in love with it.

The women do all the maintenance themselves.

They replaced the sod roof with shingles, put in a new floor and
filled the gaps between logs with cement to cut down on drafts.

“Isn’t it a beaut?” Larson said proudly. “We love it.”

“It has character,” Regal said.

This fall, they built two fancy elevated deer stands. Each has a
4-foot-by-8-foot platform, half of which is boxed and roofed so the
hunters can sit out of the rain or snow.

Both offer excellent views of forest openings and surrounding
woods. On the way home, the group already was talking about next
year’s hunt.

“I just live for it,” Larson said.

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