Your Place Under the Big Pine

In Marinette County, just off the first beaver pond at the headwaters of the KC Creek, there’s a big white pine that was somehow missed by generations of sawyers. “Under the big pine” was the recognized location of the Waldo Gang deer camp from the time it was established in 1911 until it hosted its last hunters in 1989. It was where I grew up deer hunting and, you can also say, it’s where I did a lot of growing up.

By the time I started going to deer camp, I was the youngest there by 42 years. My own pa was the next youngest! Evenings in the glowing wall tent, I’d lie on my sleeping bag and listen to the old guys tell stories. Under the big pine, I learned about hunting, about life, and about what’s really important.

Though the camp and the Waldo Gang live only in memory today, the big pine is still there. I go back to sit under it as often as I can. It’s where I can still talk best with my pa who’s been hunting the other side for decades, and it’s where I connect most clearly with my heavenly father, too.

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UndertheBigPine.com will share the lifetime of stories, friendships, memories, and adventures those nights under the big pine inspired. This is a place for those outdoorspeople whose passion burns strong, but who are seeking even more from their time in camp and in the field.

Back in the late 70s, a couple of psychologist types did a study that determined there are stages in being a hunter: Shooter Stage in which satisfaction is tied to getting shooting; Limiting Out Stage where success is measured mostly in the amount of game killed; Trophy Stage at which satisfaction comes from selectivity in game taken; and Method Stage that’s about hunting within self-set limitations more restrictive than the rule book.

Then there’s a stage called the Sportsman Stage. The name is lacking because you can certainly be a sportsman and ethical hunter in any stage. And sportsMAN is exclusive of women who comprise the fastest growing segment of hunters today. For this hunter, satisfaction is in the total experience, in giving back, and in playing a role in the success of others. Most of all, it’s about the collection of experiences, memories, and stories to tell around the next campfire. Focus is on family, friends, and remembrances.

Most days now, this is how I enjoy hunting, and I prefer to associate with others who appreciate these same things. It’s not about age; it’s about attitude. So consider UndertheBigPine.com a hunting camp with the tent flap open. Come on in … coffee’s hot on the stove … there’s a simmering pot of chili, too.

Your spot at the campfire under the big pine is waiting. I hope you’ll find it warm, welcoming, and a place you’ll visit again and again; someplace you can’t wait to get back to. Let’s all enjoy the very best rewards hunting has to offer together under the big pine.

UndertheBigPine.com will cover:

Advice of the Elders

Hunting is not new—not by a long shot. It’s rich in tradition and heritage. We are stewards of that heritage. It’s our responsibility to preserve and protect it, and to pass it on better and stronger than it was left to us.

All of us were guided to hunting and through its stages by one or more mentors. Fathers, grandfathers, uncles, family friends—and yes, even mothers. They laid the foundation on which we built the lifetime passion for hunting. They knew things. They gave good advice.

Pa taught me, “At the end of a day of hunting you take care of your dogs, your game, your guns and gear … then yourself … in that order.” Advice like this is precious and meant to be shared.

Smiles

We started hunting, we kept hunting, and we reached this stage in hunting … BECAUSE IT’S FUN. If it weren’t fun, why would we keep coming back? Why would we commit the time, money, and energy it takes if we didn’t enjoy it?

When I see these stoic, tough-guy hunters in the TV promos, I scream at the television, “Lighten up buddy! Don’t take yourself so damn seriously. Who are you mad at?”

If hunting and hunting camp makes you so mad, then don’t go there … please, don’t go there. We … at least I … don’t want you there! Under the big pine we laugh, we smile, we tell jokes on ourselves! We don’t laugh at adversity “someday,” we enjoy it now!

Under the big pine the humor shared will be appropriate to anyone. If I wouldn’t tell a story to my wife or to my church friends, then it doesn’t belong under the big pine either.

Camp Cooking

Some of the most relished memories hunters collect are recollections of great hunting camp meals whether the ingredients included the day’s bag or just what could be whipped up from the camp’s cache. UndertheBigPine.com will offer and seek recipes and camp cooking advice.

We’ll certainly talk about cooking wild game, but man doesn’t live by wild game alone—these days anyway—so we plan to cover all of that other great stuff we get to eat in hunting camps, too. We’ll also recommend the best cookbooks and resources to put you in demand as THE camp cook … which should go a long way to get you out of having to do dishes!

It may start out small, but perhaps we’ll actually become a big time online archive of camp cooking knowledge and resources.

Guest Storytellers

Hunting this trail as I have, I’ve been blessed to meet some wonderful people and count them as friends. Some have even become hunting, career and lifetime mentors. Folks like J. Wayne Fears, Larry Weishuhn, Johnny Hudman, John Wooters, Hal Swiggett, Jack Hume, Dawn Charging, CW “Butch” Welch, Mark Kayser, Ron Spomer, Paul Burke, Steve Burke, Steve Pennaz, Brenda Valentine, Bobby Cole, Kristine Houtman, Kevin Tate, Laurie Lee Dovey, and more have shared some inspiring stories and advice with me over the years. I’m going to try to convince them to share their wonderful stories Under the big pine, now and then, as well.

Great Reads

By this time in our careers, we are mostly beyond reading about the tactics to take bigger deer or shoot more ducks. In informational reading, we’re seeking advice on better ways to manage hunting land, how to get the most enjoyment from the precious time we can spend hunting with friends and family, and maybe travel advice if we can see our way clear to make a once-in-a-lifetime kind of hunting trip. And, of course, great camp cookbooks.

Most of all, though, we’re looking for a good story – old or new. UndertheBigPine.com will serve up excerpts from great tales about hunting and the outdoors. Some will be new ones we uncover and some will be great classics you may somehow have missed along the way. But we’ll always try to give you a recommendation or two for books to take to the stand to help pass the time during those long waits or to enjoy at the cabin by a crackling fire on a rainy afternoon. We’ll also recommend books you’d be proud to have your kids or grandkids read as they take on the stewardship of the hunting heritage.

Reflections

You don’t spend much time under the big pine without realizing the natural world, the animals we hunt, and the bond we share with family and friends are all miraculous things. The more you see and experience, the less possible it seems this amazing world just happened by chance. And they mean even more to those of us who value them so highly, supported with the belief that an infinite, all-knowing entity put them here specifically to make our finite time on earth bountiful, thrilling, and meaningful.

Matured hunters have seen things in the field and shared moments in camp that convince us this is all part of God’s divine plan. As we see those connections, we’ll share them and perhaps even relate them to what the Good Book says to us. I’m convinced God is everywhere—most definitely in the woods, mountains, marshes, fields, and hunting camps of the world.

We hope to post meditations that go to the hunter’s heart and that you’ll want to share with the same people with whom you’re sharing all your other hunting traditions.

We Love Our Dogs

By this stage many bird hunters will tell you what keeps them hunting is “… just shooting a few for the dog.” Without that companionship and relationship, hunting wouldn’t be nearly what it is. You have enjoyed the fieldwork and companionship of some good hunting dogs whether hounds, retrievers or bird dogs. We’ll share stories and recollections of times afield with great dogs and the importance they play in our lives every day.

Lifetime Gear

Those of us camped under the big pine are still interested in keeping up on gear and advancements, but not whiz-bang gadgets touted to help get you a bigger buck or bag your limit faster. We’re interested in “lifetime” hunting gear—firearms, optics, even clothing we’ll only buy once more in a lifetime because the quality is so high and the service they provide so complete, there will be no need to ever replace it.

Friendly debates are frequent and welcomed under the big pine. On occasion we may take a stand on a particular cartridge, pair of boots, shotgun, or pedigree of dog as the best. Yet there will always be sincere acknowledgement everyone has a right to an opinion. Because when the fire’s embers fade, we’re all hunters who recognize that a united front to protect, preserve, and enhance our heritage is the only way to ensure the future of that which we cherish.

Outdoor Travel Tips

There’s a big, wide world of hunting out there beyond the sheltering limbs of the big pine. And since this stage of hunting is about the collection of experiences, memories and stories, it’s fun to dream and plan adventures in exotic locations. Some of us are blessed to be able to travel to actually make those dreams happen.

These trips are even more enjoyable and produce even more good memories when you can avoid the hassles and headaches of traveling with guns, bows, dogs, and the rest. UndertheBigPine.com will offer school-of-hard-knocks advice on avoiding pitfalls of travel and enjoying every minute of the adventure to the fullest so you can bring back more stories to share under the big pine.

A few things UndertheBigPine.com won’t cover:

If you’re stopping under the big pine for the first time and wondering if it’s a destination to bookmark and check back on now and then, it’s only fair to tell you what we don’t intend to include here.

It’s highly unlikely we’ll ever talk B&C scores or length of brow tines. Collecting inches of bone is not what we’re about. It demeans the magnificence of an animal to break it down to numbers just for the sake of whose is bigger for bragging rights. Sure it’s great to take a trophy animal. Their pursuit makes for great stories to share under the big pine. But there are even more hunts that don’t produce a record book buck or bull and even more on which we don’t bag anything at all. But if these hunts taught a lesson, if they produced a greater appreciation of the hunting heritage, then sharing them is just as important … and welcome … under the big pine.

UndertheBigPine.com is about the adventure, the places, the people, the animals, the experiences, the stories – anything but numbers.

Since we’re camped under the big pine far off the pavement, news gets here slowly, if at all. So this won’t be a news site that tries to keep you up to date on legislation and threats facing hunting, firearms ownership, or conservation. Don’t get me wrong, these are tremendously important, but there are organizations and sites that already do a terrific job with all this. I anticipate we’ll share occasional information and kudos on what others are doing and encourage you to support them, but we won’t be going on crusades of our own. Under the big pine, we’re mostly all NRA, NWTF, RGS, Delta Waterfowl, DU, Pheasants Forever, RMEF, QDMA, SCI, Wildlife Forever, etc. members already. If you aren’t you should be … ‘nuff said.

On occasion we may reflect on historical events from the hunters’ perspective, but always in a way that allows for each seat around the fire to have a respected opinion.

Under the big pine we are about real and lasting things like traditions that go back generations. We want to help all we can in ensuring they last generations more. Chances are we’ll poke some fun at fads and gimmicks like zombie hunting and vampire guns, but they won’t rate serious coverage. I can guarantee no one will be talking about zombie shooting in 50 or 60 years, so we won’t talk about it now.

Finally, no bad attitude, knock-down-drag-out, name-calling, hard-feelings fights are tolerated under the big pine. This is a congregation of like-minded hunters who each has an opinion, but recognizes every hunter has a right to his/her own, as well. Good-natured defense of an ammo head stamp? Sure. Standing up for your favorite breed of dog? Absolutely. Questioning someone’s parentage because he does or doesn’t believe in high fence hunting? – NO!