In the grander scheme of things, our camp really isn’t that old. I know of families whose camps date back to the pioneer days when their ancestors hunted for survival and they didn’t call it “camp,” it was just called “home.”
Our hunting camp is a 5-ish-hour drive to North Florida, nestled in the backwoods of a place called Perry. I first laid eyes on these woods when I was 13 or 14. There was nothing here then but a couple thousand acres of planted pines and a small clearing in the center which would become our fabled Big Racks Hunt Club; aptly named by my then-12-year-old brother with his appropriately adolescent humor.
Today, this place has campers, elaborate sitting porches, string lights, running water fed from a natural spring and, of course, power. You see, this camp was founded and built by former linemen, mostly. One look around, you’ll see retired power poles used to construct the cook shack, feeders, and gate posts. There’s an old transformer by the equipment barn, insulators for feeder pole braces, and culverts made of spun concrete poles, the kind they use in transmission line construction.
But still, we have no cell service here. We gladly become unreachable a few miles out, pretending we’ve reverted back to our primitive roots. While some have modern-day camper amenities, Mike and I prefer to cook meals over the campfire, bathe with wet wipes, and bask in the sounds of the wilderness.
The founding members have invested blood, sweat, and tears, into keeping this a place we enjoy escaping to. We kill cottonmouths and harvest food for our freezers. We honor traditions and camp rules. We gather over whisky and Apalachicola oysters. We debate Florida versus Florida State, with that inevitable Georgia outlier. We recap our hunts with child-like vigor and deny ever falling asleep during the day’s first sit.
On our most recent work trip, I found myself in awe of this place, as usual. At the time of this writing, it’s been 17 years since I harvested my first whitetail at this very camp. The pines were hardly 4-feet tall then, today they tower over the tree stand at 60-feet or more.
I’m a sucker for tradition, sentiment, and Old Florida values. I felt so inspired, I snapped some photos of our hunting camp as it stands today. I pray that I never take these wild places for granted, always seek adventure over comfort, and respect the fruits of hard work and good old-fashioned sportsmen ingenuity. Enjoy!