Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Twangfest 29

Norb in Game Face Mode
There are things that we sometimes do that require effort, that are outside of our daily routine.  Things that would be easier if we didn’t bother, if we stayed in our comfort zone of modern life instead of stepping outside (literally) to live something greater from time to time. To live life.  Those were my thoughts on the first late night of Twangfest this past week when I looked up into the night sky at all those billions of stars, listening to the darkness and the muffled sound of guitar and song from inside our trailer.  Yes, this weekend does require effort-gathering all our hunting gear (if we can find it), driving or flying hours to arrive here in the Black River country, buying food and supplies and leaving everything else behind for a few days.  But the payoff could not be greater, a chance to be back together with hunting partners and friends every year at this same time.  To spend countless hours in the stand, seeing, hearing and smelling what we miss in our usual routine.  To be a participant in the hunt instead of an observer and to ever dream of that chance at a trophy.  Trophy or not, time spent in the woods at Twangfest is always a success.
Movement in the Pines
This year was the 29th or…….30th anniversary of “Twangfest,” a term coined many years ago for a weekend campout and bow hunt in the hills near Black River Falls, Wisconsin.  At that time, we were young, mostly in college at UW La Crosse and would make weekend pilgrimages to hunt whitetails as a break from study and jobs.  Soon an idea was born to camp and hunt-requiring a lot of scrounging for a bunch of college kids then.  Years rolled into decades, and we all moved onto real jobs, families,  and other locations. New family came into our lives and sadly, the loss of family members as well, but one thing remained a constant-our annual return to the archery deer camp called Twangfest.
The Nixter
Our love of the hunt and hunting brought us together then, and remains the key ingredient even now, but the camaraderie, brotherhood and music, food, drink and laughter is what bring us back.  It is the first thing on my calendar each year.  It has always amazed me that for many of us, this is the one time each year we see each other, but it feels like yesterday.  That is how strong the friendships are here.  The first meeting is the best- real man hugs and a genuine joy of being back together.  That lasts for all of a few minutes and then the unloading of tons of gear begins-quivers and bows to beer and brats.  Sleeping bags, guitars, and the latest do dad from Gander Mountain and Cabelas.  Piles of food, and camo clothes and boots lay scattered inside the trailer in an instant.  There is also a sense of urgency as well-this IS the first day and we have had dreams of that big buck-fueled by recent game cam photos and smart email chatterin in the days leading to this.  Within an hour, dust is settled and civilian clothes are now exchanged for camo clad men, fittling with sights and arrows and few practice shots.  Soon the sound of my tapping toe impatiently waiting to “get going” and begin the actual hunting phase of the weekend.  We eventually are bouncing down the logging road and soon hours pass in the stand we again realize how much we are blessed to be able to experience this.  Yes, it took effort, but to be out here…in nature, in the woods, is primeval and beautiful and deep down something we long for I believe.
The Morning Hunt Report
Each morning and evening hunt (with just enough time for a sandwich in between) is always followed by the deer report.  “What did you see?”  “Okay, what’s the scoop?” And of course, there are tales of misses (me this year sadly at a large large buck), getting nailed down by a too smart doe, “bambies” milling around and the grunts of big bucks chasing.  The stories are again re-told at every stop as we pick up all seven of the hunters on the way back to camp.  Sometimes the stories even change, which is all okay with me.  Over the past 29  (or thirty) years, we have had many good years of harvesting a deer or two…or three.  Some does, some very nice bucks, but not always, and that is okay as well.  It’s all about the hunt and the brotherhood.  Funny, I don’t think I use that term (and I do mean it)  in any other context all year, except in describing these guys I spend the first week of every November with. 
Lem on Johnny Cash
Besides the pursuit of deer, music has become a central element in the fest.  Our group is blessed with several talented musicians (not including myself) and before the meal is done and dishes washed, guitar cases are flung open, cheater glasses on (to read lyrics now a days) and endless tuning begins.  Requests are made and familiar songs ring out inside the trailer or around the campfire.  Favorites include “Ladder Stand,” “Paper Products (from Mosinee)," and a new hit-“The Easement Blues,” along with lesser know songs of Elton John, Peter Gabriel and REO Speedwagon .   Song and laughter continue until the realization that the wake up call (my duty it seems) comes early and we better retire.  Music has entertained us over the years, as well as skits, impressions and other ridiculousness  which we so love and leave our guts sore from laughing all weekend.
The Bus Stop
The “last day” feeling always starts for me on the evening hunt Saturday.  Knowing  that this is the last night stand, that our time is drawing (pun intended) to a too quick end leaves a pit in my gut.  One last chance for that well placed shot and maybe a buck of a lifetime.  Not everyone can stay til the end- too long of travel back home or family commitments take some away early and there is a sadness when each guy pulls out of the logging road.  The final morning is the hardest….knowing that getting a deer today will require a lot of extra effort to get back to camp, pack, transport home and process before the work week, but we just have to try one more time…this still is about the hunt and you have to put the tree time in-there are no shortcuts.
The Mid-day Break

All too soon the packing and cleaning start in a flurry.  A good friend lets us use the old trailer (and his land) as our Twangfest HQ and to him we are indebted.  So we take extra care to leave everything better than we found it and leave behind enhancements (hopefully) for the other hunters who stay here.  Since some of the guys live out of state, they usually are on the road first-hours of travel for them ahead.  I’m the lucky one I guess, a short half hour drive to Neillsville and I’m back home, still wanting to turn around and drive back up those bluffs to hunt a bit longer.  But the one key thing would be missing, and it would not be the same until next year, when that band of brothers return to again to live Twangfest another year.
The Twangfesters of 2011

1 comment:

  1. Great words, my friend. An awesome time. Looking forward to the 30th (or 31st).