GWINN - Hunters have been in the woods for nearly two weeks now and with the regular firearm season coming to a close, many have been very successful filling their licenses.
With the hunting season comes deer camp. These camps can range from tents, campers, or cabins.
But deer camp is much more than just a place to eat and sleep. For many it is a place to get together with family and friends and catch up.
The Romback men, from left, Tim, Trevor, Keith, Reuven, Tyler, Bill, Craig, and Vic, stand in front of their deer camp recently during a lunch break. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
A group of the Romback men sit around a table and talk recently at their deer camp. Gathering at the camp during whitetail season is a long-held tradition for the family. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)
It is a place to tell stories and pass on traditions to children. For the Romback family, deer camp is this and much more.
There are on average about 12 hunters each deer season who come to the Romback deer camp.
The family there includes brothers Reuven, Bill and Vic who are the sons of Leo Romback. From the next generation, Reuven's sons, Keith, Tim and Craig, and Bill's son, Ron who come to camp. Then the sons have boys that hunt, too: Keith's son, Tyler, 16; Tim's son, Trevor, 14; Craig's sons Phil, 18, and Ryan, 15, and Ron's son Dale, 20.
The camp was bought back in 1993 and named "Leo's Place II" after Leo Romback's original camp. It was purchased from Gary Grizzle, of Texas, who built the camp in 1987 when he was stationed at K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base.
When the Rombacks purchased the camp from Grizzle it was a single level "A" frame cabin.
Since the purchase in 1993, the "A" frame has had a number of additions and updates including a sleeping quarters and kitchen added in 1994 and a living room that was added in 2004.
Tim Romback recalls the first year the family bought the camp.
"I remember it was just me and my grandpa (Leo) out here at the time. We were putting the roof on the first addition and I spotted a deer wondering into our camp. I climbed up the ladder and shot the four-pointer from the roof of our camp. That same year my dad (Reuven) shot an eight-pointer," he said.
Deer camp is all about storytelling.
"You get a lot stories past among other camps and hunters has they travel back and forth," Tim said. "Most of the stories you hear year after year but they seem to get funnier and funnier every year."
As brothers Reuven, Bill and Vic stood outside the camp, they talked and laughed about the year brother Bill built the sauna.
"He (Bill) had the sauna built and going on the 14th of November in 2002 and we burnt it on the 18th of November," Vic said.
"We had gone to our annual horseshoe tournament on Saturday and when we came back that evening the roof was on fire," said Reuven.
Had the sauna not been completely constructed of logs, it would have been a total lost, Bill said.
Along with the great stories deer season is also a time of camaraderie. Bill said this is the only time of the year that he sees some of his friends.
"People who we grew up with, this is the only time we see them," he said.
Traditions are another great aspect of deer camp. Bonfires have become a recent deer camp tradition for the Rombacks.
"It wasn't until our dad (Leo) sold the original camp (Leo's Place) in 1991 and we started hunting down by the creek that we thought about having a bonfire," said Reuven.
Ever since then, the family of hunters sits around the bonfire to tell stories and have a beverage of choice, "especially on Saturday nights listening to Elmer (Aho) on the radio," Bill said.
Another tradition the Rombacks participate in is the annual horseshoe competition. They started a hunters' tradition of horseshoes on the first Saturday of deer season, Reuven said. At the tournament there are about 30 to 40 guys who come to play. When the game is over, just before the trophy presentation, the group of guys observes a moment of silence and reads the names of camp members who have passed away over the years.
"We have as many as 30 past members from all the camps that participate," he said.
Overall, this year's deer season has been very successful for the Romback family. In the first week of hunting the family has already bagged four deer. Two of the deer were shot by Trevor and Tyler who bagged their bucks within five minutes of each other.
"It made me a very proud grandpa to know that both my grandsons each got a deer this year," said Reuven. "It really made my deer camp experience more enjoyable."
After Trevor and Tyler shot their deer, word began to spread to the other surrounding camp.
"We had more than 30 guys stop by the camp that night to congratulate them," Reuven said, adding that these two bucks will be added to the 28 deer antlers that already adorn the camp's livingroom.
Andy Nelson-Zaleski can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 256. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.