A brisk weekend night. Late November. I was walking the yellow dog through our Duluth neighborhood, but I was thinking about deer camps.

This was a deer-hunting intensive weekend — the final weekend of Minnesota’s firearms deer season and the opening weekend of Wisconsin’s gun deer season. I imagined yellow lamplight glowing from deer shack windows on both sides of the border. Figures in flannel and wool would be moving about inside. I could almost hear their lively banter, the clunking of boots on wooden floors.

I could visualize the shack’s door creaking open, and the decibel level from inside swelling momentarily. A hunter trundles out into the sharp November air to claim something from a pickup. Maybe he — or she — pauses on the way back to the shack, stops for a moment to check the wind direction. Maybe the hunter thinks about where he’ll be sitting come morning. Maybe she’s wondering how the wind could affect her hunt.

It was such a privilege, chronicling these hunts on both sides of the border for nearly 40 years as an outdoors writer for the News Tribune. Deer hunting is a deeply personal activity, nearly always conducted without an audience. Allowing someone with a notebook and a camera to sit in on such a hunt was always an act of faith.

At one camp, in a big gravel pit up beyond Brimson, I watched a young man climb about 20 feet up a mature conifer tree one November evening during the Minnesota firearms deer season.

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“What’s he doing?” I asked another hunter.

“Oh, just calling his girlfriend,” the hunter said. “It’s the only place he can get service out here.”

Always looking for a fresh angle, I once spent some time at an all-women’s deer camp near Grand Rapids. It was amazing. The cabin — not a shack — was bright and immaculate. The women were very supportive of each other. One of the women had missed a couple deer in previous years. The others were there for her.

“Now, Jen (not her real name), what gun are you shooting? Maybe it’s your gun. We might have to get you a new gun.”

At another camp, a photographer and I followed one of the hunters out to hunt in the morning. He would be still-hunting — walking and pausing — hoping to sneak up on a buck. The photographer and I would follow close behind him. But immediately, I noticed he wasn’t wearing the required blaze-orange clothing — just a red and black buffalo-plaid shirt. I quietly mentioned this to him before we’d gone far.

“Yeah,” he said. “We don’t like blaze orange.”

I told him that might be a problem for the story and photos. And for him as well if his photo appeared in the newspaper. He understood. We returned to the shack, where he managed to rustle up a blaze-orange vest. Off we went again — legally.

I can tell you what my dominant impression was from all of those deer-camp visits: how happy all of those hunters were to be together with each other. It was the universal ingredient of all deer camps.

Sam Cook is a freelance writer for the News Tribune. Reach him at cooksam48@gmail.com or find his Facebook page at facebook.com/sam.cook.5249.