Band of brothers at deer camp
This isn’t the Hollywood Band of Brothers, this is the real deal: the Rounders of Riga, founded in 1954 by group of World War II veterans and hunters with similar interests.
Today the Rounders consist of four vets and close associates, selectively chosen over the years for their high standards and respect for wildlife, stewardship of the land, sportsmanship and ethics.
A special camaraderie exists among friends and family who spend two weeks together at deer camp each year. Despite varying ages, the morning season opener is likened to youthful Christmas mornings past.
There’s not much sleep during the night. Olfactory senses heighten at 4 a.m., invigorated by the eye-opening aroma of cowboy coffee percolating on the stovetop, co-mingled with the scent of woodsmoke from the stove.
Someone peeks outside to measure temperature, wind direction and windspeed; stand locations and possible outcomes are discussed. Safety and respect for individual locations are a must.
We disperse around 5:30 a.m. exchanging rounds of “good luck.” I trek slowly to my chosen hillside stand and get myself as comfortable as possible to avoid any tell-tale movement. Sight, hearing and scent are all attuned to long-ago-learned deer movements.
Nature takes up its daily drama: The shroud of darkness to the east seems to dissipate from star-studded sky, shafts of gold are met with a choir of waking birds and animals. The leaf-laden forest floor is suddenly alive with color and sound.
Some mornings, a gorgeous sunrise is preceded by spectacular orange and red skies.
But not all mornings are tranquil. Mother Nature can be a tempest, throwing us adverse challenges, but we endure them all, and savor each hour of each day. We will miss all of it during the next 50 weeks of waiting to return.
We return to camp around noon for a quick lunch, comparing the events of the morning. Congratulations and help are offered to the successful hunter. Then friendly banter or perhaps a nap.
Around 2 p.m., we’re off again, and don’t return until the day ends. At camp, we regroup and discuss the day while awaiting a camp dinner, prepared each night by a designated member. A drink or two are savored, stories exchanged, maybe a few hands of cards played.
Coffee is prepared for the coming morning, the wood stove banked and stacked before lights-out. We sleep until a 4 a.m reveille is announced by our dog-barking alarm clock.
This is our deer camp, anxiously awaited each year by we Band of Brothers, who are drawn together by patriotism, trust, respect and loyalty to one another.
God bless you patriotic readers and your families. Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinners, lend a helping hand where possible and say a little prayer for those out there protecting our freedoms.
Town of North East resident Larry Conklin is a Vietnam veteran and a member of both the Millerton American Legion Post 178 and the VFW Post 6851 in North Canaan, Conn.