Other deer hunters who have never tried tent camping in winter typically find it difficult to believe we can actually walk around barefooted in our tent in complete comfort while it is as cold as 27-below-zero outside. We sometimes even find it necessary to open a tent door for awhile to cool things down. The only time it is uncomfortably cold inside is when our alarm clock begins ringing at 4:00 AM in the morning. At that time it is customary for me to crawl out of my sleeping bag rated for 20-below, get a gas lantern going, stack and light wood in our two-barrel Alaskan-type wood stove, get some coffee water heating on our propane kitchen stove, pull on a jacket and boots to head to the latrine outside and check the thermometer and the direction smoke is billowing from our stove pipe on the way back. By then it’s cozy warm inside, my hunting partners are sitting up on their cots yawning and stretching and asking, “How cold is it outside?” or “Which direction is wind blowing?” having certain stand sites in mind.
We began our cold weather tent camping in 1965 beginning with a 10X10 umbrella tent and aluminum bunk cots, heating the tent with a Coleman cook stove perched on a homemade rack and a gas lantern only when necessary. I have to admit, we had to be Minnesotans accustomed to cold winters to endure cold nights in deer country back then. As my hunting gang grew in number, we graduated to larger tents and improved heating systems. Today we use two big tents, 14×18-20 feet long, heated with barrel woodstoves. We are now thinking about replacing one of our tents, 31 years old, with a 27-footer to accommodate our growing gang.
Though necessary for some of us to head north a few days early to set up our camps and cut, split and stack firewood, we would hunt whitetails no other way. Our camps and parked cars mark our favorite deepwoods hunting area like bucks mark their breeding areas with antler rubs and ground scrapes. More than 99% of other Minnesota deer hunters, always welcome for coffee, have respected (not hunted in) our current hunting area for 25 years.
Half of the joy experienced during our deer hunting seasons comes from our tent camping. The sounds of wood snapping, popping and mewing in our barrel stoves, Coleman lanterns hissing above, the smells of tent canvas and sumptuous hot evening meals shared in one tent, spiced with spirited games of cribbage, our latest tales of hunting adventure and howling of wolves on distant ridges beneath the moon make our days in deer camp among the most revered and rewarding of a lifetime.