THERE IS AN old saying about how things happening in Vegas, stay in Vegas. That is, for the most part, also true of hunting camps.

Things happen in camp that should not be reported, especially to wives, back home. Then again, some of those things, with the passage of years, become fair game for public revelation, especially the ones falling under the category of good, clean fun.

Over the past 27 years, there have been many fun moments in my North Dakota duck camp, some of which shall never be revealed to the public and others which now seem innocent enough so as to be related.

One of the biggest pranksters with whom I have ever shared a duck camp is my old friend Doug Drew. He is a master of the art. During our first trip to North Dakota, four of us camped with four other friends who introduced us to North Dakota duck hunting, in the front yard of Combine Bob, a guy they had made friends with years before. 

On that late October trip, we had a small camper in which three of us slept, while the fourth member of our group, world-renowned snorer Jim Krieck, was forced to sleep on the far side of the lawn in his van. Steve Tameling and Tom Reed slept in Reed’s truck camper set up atop a wooden stand in the yard. Tom Tameling and Jay Froelich shared a pop-up camper.  

Each night, Krieck’s snoring was drowned out only by a herd of feral cats roaming Rock Lake. They would fight and yowl and scrap over whatever bits of duck parts they might find by our cleaning table.

Us newbies left a few days before the old-timers and on the eve of our leaving, Drew decided to leave a present directly underneath Reed’s camper: a full bag of duck and goose leavings from the day’s cleaning. All night we were kept awake by cats fighting over the scraps.

We left before daybreak and it wasn’t until the others returned home that Reed and Steve Tameling asked me “Did you guys get kept awake that last night you were there by all those cats? Sounded like they were right under our camper.” Without batting an eye, I lied like a trooper, saying we never heard a thing. Years later, I finally confessed Drew’s sins to them.

Drew has gotten me many times with pranks. On one occasion, we were in K.D.’s Bar watching the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings on Monday night football. Sitting around a big table with beverages and pizza, Drew, a misguided Vikings fan, and I started betting. First, it was on who would win the coin toss. Then, who would catch the first pass, get a first down first, score first, you name it. I lost every $1 bet we made as Randy Moss and the Vikings destroyed the Packers. Worst of all, each time Drew won, I had to watch him do the worst, most grotesque victory dance ever performed around our table.

Two years later, I got revenge. Watching a football game, we were joined at our table by a couple of locals. They sat by me and in short order, one of them, he had been generously sampling the work of August Busch, started telling me all about legal troubles he was having.

“Why, I know just the guy who could help you,” I generously offered. “See that guy at the end of the table down there?” I asked, pointing at Drew. “He’s a Wisconsin Circuit Court judge,” I lied. “Has been for 30 years. Go get his advice. He’ll be happy to help you out.”

Two hours later, game over, I sauntered out of the bar while Drew was still being peppered with legal questions by his new, best friend. It took him two more hours to escape.

Years later, at my present duck camp in Egeland, N.D., we went to the Sportsman’s Bar for supper and while there, were joined by Schultzee, a grizzled old-timer who was Egeland’s answer to Mayberry’s Otis, and two other locals who knew their way around a beer bottle.

Schultzee, sadly, dead now, was one of the most likeable guys you could ever meet and best of all, liked to hand out honest tips on where to find duck and goose hot spots.

Along with Schultzee, I shared bar space that night with two other locals, one a giant of a man, the other half his size. Tennessee John was there too and in his coat pocket, was a jug of genuine Tennessee moonshine, distilled by Popcorn, that most famous of all Tennessee moonshiners.

After getting bartender Rick’s permission, John produced the liquid dynamite and the locals began sampling it. Good, they agreed, but not the best they’d ever had. That didn’t stop them from mostly draining the bottle. Things were going swell, until one of them spilled a shot on the bar and then, instead of wiping it up, decided igniting it with a lighter would work better. Rick decided that would be the last time he would like to see Tennessee moonshine in his bar.

The kicker was the next night, we went to the bar to eat and there were our three friends. The giant saw John coming and immediately blurted “Hey, I got a bone to pick with you.” John’s first thought was “Oh boy, I better hit him really good with my first punch or I’m dead.” Anyway, the giant started laughing and asked “How come you didn’t warn me last night that brown stuff had such a kick?” Seems after we left, the brown stuff hit him, and he fell off his bar stool and cracked several ribs. He still talks about that night every year when I see him out there and fortunately, he still laughs about it.

There are a million stories in every city and a million more in every hunting camp. I could go on, but like the above stories, it would take considerable sanitizing before they would be printable in a family newspaper.

The best thing about such stories is that they live on forever, making each hunting trip something to enjoy even more as the years go by. Hey, did I ever tell you about the one?