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NUGENT: Annual family hunt camp

The purest of American traditions

- - Monday, October 25, 2010

When all is said and done, quality of life is all about family. Dreams come and go, projects and business maneuvers when performed to the best of our ability become all-consuming, but even our most passionate endeavors are celebrated for how they provide for maximum family time. Or at least, they should be.

I should talk, for my maniac 50-year rock 'n' roll adventure has forced me to be on the road away from home and family more than most careers and professions, but in the final analysis, a nonstop six-month tour enables me to be home nonstop for the remaining six months, not just on weekends or after work for dinner as the majority of 9-to-5 jobs demand. There is a price to pay, but the rewards are well balanced. It is all about priorities.

Growing up in the beautiful state of Michigan blessed me with all the great elements of the post-World War II American dream. My memory bank glows with visions of family outings, time at the lake, fishing, hunting, shooting, picnics, ballgames, wonderful days at home doing things together in the yard, and a plethora of stirring emotions about good times in a great country.

But one memory dwarfs all others, as my primal instinct to connect with Mother Nature in the most pure, natural and profound way propelled me into the healing embrace of the wild, where my reasoning predator spirit was most alive.

Winter, spring and summer provided varying degrees of fun and adventure for the Nugent family, but as summertime morphed into the soul-stimulating fall solstice, a powerful force came over me from my earliest years of life, and I virtually could not get enough of compelling sacred time in the woods, swamps and wildlife habitat of my youth. I read Jack London's "Call of the Wild," but my own physics of spirituality was more impacting than any words could convey. I was hooked by my fifth birthday, and there has been no looking back.

My dad was a casual hunter, but like many hunters in the 1940s and '50s, he was touched by the hand of the great Fred Bear, who had influenced many American sporters to go into the fascinating world of ultradisciplined hunting with the bow and arrow. More and more sporters were intrigued by the return to this primitive and very demanding style of taking venison, and a fire was ignited deep in our souls to learn more about wildlife and how to better fit in with its awe-inspiring world.

As is the case in all 50 states and every Canadian province, opening day of deer season is a moment in time that calls our spirit to return to nature as conscientious participants, driven to show reverence for God's creation and amazing renewable wildlife resources by keeping them in the asset column of life through honest utility. Everybody knows, though some strangled by the denial of political correctness pretend otherwise, that hunting as the pure function of the annual harvest is scientifically and intellectually essential for a healthy environment. Hunters, fishers and trappers have always been the original and best environmentalists by virtue of our conservation resource stewardship. Venison is pure, and the hunt is pure. We who participate will never forget why Thanksgiving takes place in the fall. It is one of life's last, perfect, pure endeavors and responsibilities. We celebrate it with fire in our hearts.

Thirty million American families excitedly begin to turn the pages of the calendar many months before opening day so as to coordinate everyone's schedule for a rendezvous at deer camp. In Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New York, Minnesota and most Midwestern states, there is no rush-hour traffic to compare to the caravans heading into the North Country days before the opener. Entire geographical regions shut down from normal practices as whole families leave school and work to flood their traditional sacred hunting grounds for the big day. Truckloads of sporting gear and weaponry to outfit the world's armies are organized for this magical day of days, and the giddiness in the air is palpable.

Regional economies come to life and pivot on the annual migration, and most states celebrate an economic impact in the $2-billion-plus range each hunting season. America's No. 1 hunting state, my home state of Texas, is proud that hunting and fishing in the Lone Star state generate more than $6 billion in revenues every year. Hunting ranks in the top 1 percent of the nation's most powerful economic assets. Ban that, animal rights advocates. I don't think so.

My dad and uncles are gone now, and old Stan and Whitey are up there in the Big Hunt, too, with Fred Bear and all the blood brothers of yore. As many of my sons and daughters, brothers, sister and extended families as possible hustle to convene on our own slice of sacred grounds, where the spirit of the swamp is too intense to ignore.

We feel the presence of our dad and Uncle John, and a tangible bond is fortified again with laughter, grilling, storytelling, wood-gathering, target practice and the occasional heave-ho of beast-dragging. Our buck pole always produces sacred protein, and the stress of the modern world is absent every day at camp.

This timeless tradition is an enormous part of our lives and brings us much positive energy and happiness. Not everybody gets a deer, but everybody gets it.

And it is the essence of life to us all. Rugged individualism and genuine independence is alive and well in America at deer camps everywhere. Self-sufficiency is not a lost art, and the primal scream is alive and well.

Celebrate perfection, America. The deer need us and we need the deer.

You can't do this in France.

Ted Nugent is an unstoppable American rock 'n' roll, sporting and political activist icon. He is author of "Ted, White and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto" and "God, Guns & Rock 'N' Roll" (Regnery Publishing).