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Growing Up Out Proctor: Pap’s Deer Hunt

By Gary Eller - | Mar 17, 2021

For many years, my dad Thad went on week-long deer hunting trips in the mountains of central West Virginia with his nephew Bob (my first cousin, the youngest son of Uncle Okey).

Pap had a special relationship with Bob, who often stopped at our place with his wife and two girls to “set awhile” and gab on our porch. One year, Bob bought a two-ton flatbed truck so they could a build a camper to take on their annual deer hunt and not have to sleep in a tent. Unfortunately, they started construction too late to have the camper finished before they left for the mountains.

Most notably, they had not installed a vent for the gas stove that heated the camper. Also important, they had not yet insulated the walls.

The significance of these two deficiencies would become apparent their first night in the mountains with the new outfit.

To avoid gassing themselves in their sleep, Bob and Pap decide to crank up the gas heater just before they went to bed to get the camper super warm inside, then turn off the heater until morning. But their plan had a terrible flaw.

A few hours after the stove was shut down, the inside of the camper had cooled below freezing and the abundant moisture from running the gas heater began to condense. According to Pap, he woke up freezing and found several inches of frost on all the surfaces of the ceiling and walls. He also swore that his hair had frozen against the wall.

Even worse, when they cranked up the heater again in the morning, the frost melted and it rained inside the camper. The condensation soaked their clothes, sleeping bags, and everything else. That day they had to dry out the clothes outside and leave the camper door open to dry out everything. The evening heater routine was not repeated the next night and they slept in a cold camper.

Many years later, I remarked to cousin Bob that we were always surprised that Pap never shot a deer to bring home from one of these trips, while everybody else seemed to be successful. Bob said it was because Pap never left camp or even took his rifle out of the case.

He just went to deer camp to be away from the wife and kids and hang out with his buddies! It was just as well that he never brought back a deer. He hated venison.