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Hunting Vehicles

Feb 3rd, 2012 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

This past fall, during deer hunting season, the younger generation took over. We had seven teenage hunters in camp this year and seven adult hunters.

Yikes. Stay clear of Eastern Oregon in the fall, fair citizens.

I started hunting when I was 12, and my dad was a very responsible hunter. I’d been tagging along since I was five, so I knew the ropes. And now I think back to the near-carnage that we inflicted in those early years and wonder how my dad endured it. The deer weren’t in much danger — just the hunting party and the vehicles.

It’s funny to think about some of the vehicles we’ve taken deer hunting over the years. It’s amazing that some of them made the 600-mile round trip at all, no less bounced around on dusty gravel roads and trails for a week. The supreme example is our friend Vern’s early-70s model Chevy long-bed 4×4 (called “The Green Weenie”), which lasted over 30 years and went through at least nine transmissions. Yes, nine. He broke down so many times in the small town of Arlington, Ore., on his way to camp they named a vacant lot after him. It was often a story of intrigue and mystery: would Vern make it for opening day, or would someone have to go get him in Arlington?

I myself once drove an Opel Manta to camp when I lived in Caldwell, Idaho, which cut the trip down to about 150 miles. I only had to get there and back — it wasn’t exactly what you would call a hunting vehicle. But even that was touch and go. The thing sounded like a lawnmower. I got my deer that year and had to bring it back with me, so into the passenger seat it went, in a deer bag, head still attached. Got some funny looks on the drive home. The funniest looks were the next day, though. There were a lot of unruly kids living in the apartment complex where I lived, and I butchered and boned-out the deer in my apartment, and I made sure to carry out the bones to the dumpster while they were all watching. Always good to keep the miscreants on their toes.

My dad had a ‘75 Jeep Wagoneer, which I put out of our misery for him when I started driving, but one year on a scouting trip over Labor Day weekend, it conked out on us, 33 miles from the nearest town — which didn’t have a mechanic anyway. Not sure exactly what it was, something electrical. My dad and I hiked about seven miles to the nearest house with a phone in the old mining town of Galena, Ore. From there we called my older brother Mike, who had just started his career in towing, along with my brother-in-law Jim. Both worked for Hillsboro Towing. Jim had a little more experience under his belt, so he hooked up to Mike’s pickup and towed it 300 miles to our camp, and then towed the Wagoneer home the next day. It was the only time in over 40 years of hunting that we’ve had to bring a tow truck to get a vehicle home. Oh, we’ve pulled vehicles with tow ropes to the nearest mechanic, driven to town for u-bolts, spare tires, and fuses and monkey-rigged a lot. My dad got an old Scout after I rolled the Wagoneer, and one year the accelerator cable snapped on the way to hunting. By that time my brother-in-law was going on the hunting trips and he was driving the Scout with my three brothers. The Scout had a choke, so he ran the accelerator cable through the choke housing and tied it around a stick, and it ran with a hand-throttle through the hunting week and the drive back home.

Things seem much less chancy nowadays. Everyone drives something new and trailers have replaced tents. We’ve lost a little of the unpredictability. The Green Weenie is long gone. Just an occasional flat tire or a dead battery on the portable DVD player. When we spotted my son’s first buck two years ago, we were listening to the Ryder Cup on satellite radio in my older brother’s new pickup. After we got the buck in the back of the truck, my older brother called his wife with the voice-activated Bluetooth to give her the news. No, I don’t think we’ll see tow trucks in camp at any point in the near future.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper