In our own backyard

I never really encountered the mystique of the hunting shack until I was an adult, when my son Jason and a handful of others from the Cloquet area were invited to hunt out of a shack located in a rural area outside Beaver Bay.

I never really encountered the mystique of the hunting shack until I was an adult, when my son Jason and a handful of others from the Cloquet area were invited to hunt out of a shack located in a rural area outside Beaver Bay.

The rest, as they say, is history. Once Jason was exposed to the hunting shack as a teenager, he was hooked. "The Shack" has become like some sort of magical force that draws him and the others there like a moth to a flame.

And it isn't just during the hunting season. It starts way ahead of time, when "the boys" make the trek up to the shack to check on the roof, haul in propane, erect new stands, or improve their shooting lanes.

They go there in summer to fish in the nearby Split Rock, in early fall for grouse hunting season, for bow hunting, and then rifle season.

Sometimes, they go out there in the dead of winter, occasionally on New Year's Eve, to test the limits of their endurance in the cold and experience the solitude of the remote shack.


There is just something about the appeal of "living off the land," stalking big bucks with a bow or rifle and cooking impossibly cholesterol-laden meals (usually all in one frying pan!).

Admittedly, hunting shacks have sometimes garnered an unsavory reputation for unbridled drunkenness, and in some cases, it's probably warranted. But I've come to realize over time that the shack holds a far greater appeal - and one that's much more elusive - that few outside the ranks of those who experience it can ever comprehend.

And though some hunting shacks count female hunters among their ranks, it is probably safe to say that most are still overwhelmingly dominated by males. The appeal, I've concluded, is decidedly different.

Nowhere was that quite so evident as while going through the journal from my son's hunting shack. I noted a marked disparity between the entries in the journal by "the boys" and those penned by the occasional female who visits the shack - including me.....

"Jason introduced me to the shack for the very first time - the perfect therapy for the end to a hectic summer," I noted effusively in the log book one fall. "We walked in Friday evening with my Westie and Scottie. They were game little troopers, thrashing their way through the swamp grass and swimming the puddles. After a great night's sleep, we awoke to the melodic sounds of raindrops dripping on the kitchen floor...."

- Wendy

On the other hand, one of the men wrote bluntly about an experience at the shack:

"Woke up at 7:30 a.m. Mike didn't sleep a wink. He got a pine needle in his eye last night from a branch. Scratched his eye all to hell like two kids playing in a sandbox. His eyeball was all shoved in."


- The Muckster

"We came up for a short day of four wheeling. This was my first time here. What a magical place!

- Jennifer

"Shot one grouse. Blew it in half. Was too close. Ate well, drank lots...

- Matt

"Looks like this is the final trip up here for 1998. Only the sound of a couple of woodpeckers and a lot of happy memories to break the sound of silence as the old year fades away...."

- Wendy

"Les and Bud worked on yard (looks good). Repaired windows (had a beer). Relaxed, took nap (had a beer).


- Les

"This is so great - river water for my hot chocolate and schnapps. Little heaters everywhere. We're going to have a great weekend. My kids would never believe mom would go anywhere without a curling iron!"

- Denise

"Last day of hunting. No deer. But on the 23rd, I sat in the stand back on the trail. I was there for 45 minutes. As I slowly turned my head I could see him. As he was on the other side of a tree, I turned toward him and aimed. It took one shot to put him down, but three total to kill him. Forgot knife at home in Minneapolis. Cleaned deer with utility knife. What fun!

- Al

"Butch, Bud and I went quite a ways into the woods. Very pretty in the fall. Bud is amusing me with a dead mouse. He's so funny. We are going to stay at Cove Point this evening."

- Karen

You get the picture.....


I've decided the appeal of the shack is in the eye of the beholder, and for each person who goes there, it's something different. But at this time each year, it unfailingly draws folks back with an allure unlike any other.

And it's possible, it's just possible, "the shack" is not so much a place - but a state of mind.

Pine Journal columnist Wendy Johnson can be contacted at: .

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