Preserve the Memories... Start a Deer Camp Logbook

By Tom Fegely

In deer camps across the country, fall is the time for the annual gatherings of friends and the making of new memories. Such remembrances span the sweep of time, although for those of us growing long in the beard, oncevivid thoughts of seasons past somehow blur and blend.
That's why, in the late 1960s, when I hunted with 20 or so friends and acquaintances at Greentree Lodge in the Pennsylvania Poconos, we kicked off a tradition that recorded the history of our deer camp happenings. It was fittingly titled the Greentree Lodge Logbook, an annual accounting of what occurred on those magical days in deer camp.

For the Greentree group, the first words were written and the initial photos snapped more than four decades ago. And even though the camp changed names and locations since then, the logbook tradition continues. Over the years camp members took turns in authoring duties, recording for posterity the happenings each autumn with everyone doing his best to “publish” a logbook better than that of the previous years. The subjects are limitless.

Who was in camp each season, and who shot what?

Who bagged the biggest buck in 1971?

What year was our harvest by 18 members a record, with a 50-50 buck kill rate, not including five antlerless deer?

Who got lost in Lime Hollow on opening day?

What year was it that Dale had to evict a porcupine from his tree stand?

When was the first coyote seen in our Lehigh River hunting grounds?

Who left his license at home and had to make a 100 mile round trip to retrieve it on opening morning?

And more. Plenty more.

Included in each volume are the details, embarrassing and praiseworthy. Standard also are the jokes, pranks and barbs and the rosters telling who was there and for how long, what guns and calibers were used, who shot deer and who missed, thereby losing his shirt-tail.

Such a reliable reference keeps men honest. When Louie starts bragging about the big 8-pointer he shot in 1974, someone pulls out that year’s logbook. It shows him proudly posing with a small 6-pointer. “Oh yeah,” he admits sheepishly. “Guess it grew a bit since then.” As we sit down to our pre-opening day feast, we pause to offer prayer for those who have passed on. Members whose lives have ended are eulogized in the book and honored with silent tributes as we greet the new season. Logbooks are as cherished as the characters who gave them life. Rich are the camps and deer campers whose history
unfolds at the turn of a page.


You need not be a talented writer or learned photographer to produce a quality camp logbook. But like all assignments, doing your homework is a necessity. Here are the opening steps.

• While at camp, take time at day’s end to jot down each member’s highlights — or “low lights” — of the day. Don’t rely on memory alone. Newsworthy happenings might be clearly inscribed on your brain at the time, but a month or two later, many will have vanished.

• Save the camp roster, the daily menu, a camp map, the local newspaper’s weather reports for each day and any other incidentals. Everyone has a short story, even if only three or four sentences; such as Jim’s sighting of a white doe, Jack’s encounter with a friendly possum and Keith’s run-in with a black bear. The more input from camp members the better.

• If you don’t type, find someone who can. Although home computers were space age fantasies when the initial Green Tree Logbooks came to be, today’s polished logs have the potential for truly professional looking presentations. If you’re not computer literate, find a child who is, and have them do their creative stuff, especially the colorful layouts.

• Someone in camp with artistic talent? Ask him or her to draw up a few cartoons based on happenings at camp: a likeness of Old Fred running barefoot through the snow on his way to the outhouse; Ben starting his socks ablaze while drying them too close to the fireplace; Elmer falling asleep under his favorite oak tree; and Wilbur discovering upon arrival at his treestand that he had a pocketful of shells for his 30-06 ... but was toting his .270. They’ll all bring laughs, teasing and nostalgic memories year after year.

• Because the members of our camp take pride in their work, each year’s “editor” takes a page or two to express some personal thoughts on deer, deer camp, friendship, good times and carrying on the tradition. The editorials written across the years, we’ve discovered, reveal the inner thoughts of the author that might not otherwise be expressed. It’s the personal signature of that year’s editor’s efforts and the joys of deer camp in general.

• Don’t forget anyone. Even though everyone will enjoy reading about their fellow buck camp members and all else that transpired in seasons past, you can bet your best skinning knife that each camper will also be looking for his name, picture and tale in the logbook. Forgetting to include someone is a cardinal sin — no matter if he’s honored for getting the top buck or laughed at for harmlessly falling out of the top bunk.


That short line from an “oldie-but-goody” song should serve as a guideline for the “painting” of photographic images filling a logbook. Nomatter if photos are froma digital,
snapshot or top of the line 35 mm camera, consider these suggestions for making the most of the images available to fill the pages of your camp log.

• In addition to the editor’s efforts, recruit a couple fellow camp members to take pictures of each day's kills and other goings-on. Hunters in most deer camps typically break up into small groups and will meet for a noon lunch, but others might not see one another between dawn and dusk. One photographer alone can’t do the job. The more hunters toting cameras, the better the selection of photos available at layout time. Prints measuring 4-by-6 or 5-by-7 inches are best as they can be cropped and trimmed as space allows.

• Unless absolutely necessary, forget the overused deer-in-the-pickup-truck shots. When feasible, take the photos on the scene before hauling it back to camp. Most of today’s digitals and other cameras are sufficiently compact to be readily carried in a hunting coat or daypack.

• Photographs of dead deer require special attention, thereby honoring the hunter and the hunted. If the deer is photographed prior to field dressing, so much the better. That's the time to snap your hero shots. Carry a wad of moistened paper towels in a zip-type plastic bag to clean the nose, mouth and other areas showing mud or blood. Tuck the tongue back into the mouth (or cut it off), and position the animal so that the unpleasant aspects are deemphasized.

• Remember that antlers are the focal points of such photos. One of my personal favorite compositions is to snap the antlers and hunter (with his bow or gun) against the skyline. Other shots can be taken in the standard hunter kneeling position with the deer’s head and antlers in the foreground. Also, include shots of several hunters with their harvests strung from the camp meat pole.

• When gazing through the viewfinder, look beyond your main subject. Unacceptable backgrounds spoil more potentially good photographs than anything else. If the shots are posed back at camp, drag the deer to a spot where a large tree, brush, woodland or open field comprises the backdrop. Too often garbage cans, automobiles, outhouses, mailboxes, other hunters milling about and any of dozens of other objects will spoil an otherwise acceptable shot.

• Get close. The biggest mistake most amateur photographers make is wastingmost of the frame with the subject comprising, perhaps, 30 percent to 40 percent or less of the total image when it should be filling twice as much. Pose some subjects vertically and others horizontally.

• If your camera has a fill-flash learn to use it — even on sunny days when facial shadows from a long-brimmed cap are heavy. A flash is also required when the crew gets back to camp after dark, particularly if a deer had to be dragged from deep in the woods. Rather than wait until morning for photos (when the deer may be frozen like a rock or rigor mortis has set in), pose the picture prior to hanging it on the meat pole.

• Finally, be sure to pose a group photo of everyone in camp at an opportune time.


Double up on the photos with a memory wall of highlights fromprevious hunts. I get to visit many camps in each year’s travels and I’m always drawn to such displays. They tell a lot about the camp, its members and the quality of their hunts. Set aside a few dollars from the camp budget to create a framed or otherwise glass-protected, photo friendly display. Each season add a few more prints and enlargements. Deer camp is what a friend of mine calls serious fun. The older one gets, the more the days of sharing fellowship, friendship and fun mean. It’s too valuable an experience to enjoy only once. That’s where the camp logbook comes in. It’s a one-of-a-kind presentation of deer camp history that becomes more valuable with each deer season’s arrival.