Editor's note: To accompany Deer Camp '09, we've asked athletes, prominent figures and outdoorsmen to relate their first deer kill.
On Christine Thomas' first deer hunt, she was ready for high adventure. What she wasn't prepared for was spending the night in what felt like a coffin but was actually the back of a pickup truck.
Now the dean of the Natural Resources College at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and the founder of the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program, Thomas admits she was no country girl on her first foray to deer camp.
So, a week in a remote area of Michigan's Upper Peninsula in the 1970s was a dazzling experience. She saw deer, heard ravens calling overhead and witnessed the pristine beauty of November snow. And she fell in love with the tradition — plaid coats, classic rifles and endless solitude.
However, when it was time to crawl into the truck for the night, she felt smothered by pangs of claustrophobia.
Thomas, married to husband Stan for two years at the time, appreciated his efforts to make the enclosed truck bed feel comfy with curtains and a built-in bunk. But it was like putting lipstick on a pig. With her face pressed against the window as the walls closed in, Thomas' escape came in the form of needing to answer a nature call the minute the lights went out.
This kicked off a disruptive chain of events: Stan would have to move out of the way. Christine would wiggle out of her sleeping bag and into her boots. And their dog would bounce around like Tigger in Winnie the Pooh. This happened three or four times a night and by the third day, Christine said they had practically fallen into a catatonic trance from lack of sleep.
Stan, being no dummy, checked into the nearest cabin he could find, a resort called Sportsman's Paradise on Norway Lake. That act of chivalry rescued Christine's burgeoning interest in deer hunting, though the week would pass without giving her a chance to pull the trigger.
However, Stan and Christine struck up a friendship and a hunting tradition with the owner of Sportsman's Paradise, an affable Irishman named Garrett McPeak.
A few years later, before dawn on Nov. 15, 1976, Christine piled into McPeak's truck, ready for opening day. However, it was immediately obvious to McPeak that Christine had broken the cardinal rule of deer hunting. She was wearing ... gasp ... perfume!
The romantic scent Toujours Moi to be exact. When questioned on why she would do such a thing, Christine's pert answer was: "Those deer already know what stinky hunters smell like, so they'll be curious about me."
Opening morning was particularly cold, even by northern Michigan standards. After suffering below zero temps in a ground blind, Christine headed back to the truck to warm up. After a little coffee and a candy bar, she was ready to go again, however, rather than risk bothering her husband and McPeak, Christine struck out on her own in the opposite direction.
Before long, Christine heard something crunching through the snow. Her heart quickened as she stood in a small depression waiting for the owner of the footsteps to appear. A buck finally came into view at the top of the hill.
As it headed toward her, Christine recovered from the initial shock of seeing him and reasoned "I'm deer hunting. And this is a deer with antlers."
So she lifted her Marlin 336C lever action rifle and shot him.
The buck fell in his tracks, legs kicking in the air. Just as her adrenaline was surging, a strange man's voice called out, "Are you alright?"
While the U.P. isn't the end of the world, you can see if from there. So, the last thing Christine expected to encounter was another human. However, she quickly recovered, thinking to herself, "Well, I have a deer rifle, how bad could this be?"
Turns out, the guy was anything but scary, instead offering his congratulations and help. When Christine said she forgot her knife back at the truck, this hunter in shining armor field dressed the deer, helped her get it back and on top of the truck.
When her husband returned to the truck at lunchtime, he stood back in amazement. He said, "I can believe you shot that deer, and I can believe you field dressed it. I can even believe you dragged it out. But how did you get it on the truck?"
With her tag filled, Christine opted for wildlife watching that afternoon. About 30 minutes before dark, a doe trotted past her blind. And right on her heels was a buck, bigger than the one Christine had shot that morning.
Something captured his interest, maybe Christine's musky fragrance, but he walked within two feet of her, close enough for her to count eyelashes. Convinced this might not be the safest situation during deer season and hoping he'd amble past her fellow hunters, Christine gave him the old "psssssst."
The buck cocked his head. Since it worked so well the first time, she did it again. And he cocked his head the other way. Finally, he got his fill of snuffling around and turned back to follow the doe.
Christine relayed the amazing story to her husband and McPeak who had yet to fill their tags. And the next morning, McPeak tested a new hunting tactic. When he slid into the truck, Christine said she almost couldn't stand the waves of Aqua Velvet aftershave rolling off him.
To this day, Christine still loves deer hunting. Though, it's a safe bet to assume her exotic eau de toilette has been replaced by duller deer lures. Maybe even doe pee.