Deer Camp A Learning Experience

By Major Van Harl USAF Ret

Deer Camp
Deer Camp A Learning Experience
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

Wisconsin –-(  The Colonel and I loaded up the manly crew-cab 4×4 truck, and headed west out of Milwaukee for the 2013 rifle season deer camp.

We have a small farm “up north” as the say in Wisconsin. It is wonderful in the summer to be there, but I was thinking hard about the mild winters we use to have in Southwest, Oklahoma.

I know the folks in Altus, OK may not agree with me about my perception of their easy winters but for this Yankee boy who has spent seven years in Alaska I know about winter.

We got to the farm a couple of days before the season opened on 23 Nov. It was in the 30s outside so I spent two days getting work done around the farm. I do not hunt anymore, but the brother-in-law and his crew have been harvesting my deer for twenty four years and never charged me a dime for all their efforts.

The land in that part of the State is very hilly and hard for a farmer to make a living. Most of the names on the mail boxes are German or Czech. I was in the Eifel Mountains on the German-Belgian border winter of 1984-85. The land there looks just like my farm land in Wisconsin. I can see why those German immigrants settled in western Wisconsin– it looks like home.

1984-85 was the 40th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge and Europe was having a repeat of the 1944 winter. It was dangerously cold and our WW II soldiers had to fight the last major German counterattack in that brutal Christmas winter.

Sunday the 24th of November the second day of deer season in Wisconsin I awoke to a 1 degree temperature and wind. It was as if I was back in the Eifels and experiencing that killer winter of 1944. I have a pole barn I keep a travel trailer in when we go out to the farm. That Sunday the furnace was working so we were comfortable but what if the electricity went out and my battery back-up played out? I guess I would just get in the truck and go home. Now envision a Katrina situation in the middle of the Wisconsin winter.

I am out at the farm having fun. A crisis comes and there is no going back to my warm home in Milwaukee. Once the electricity is gone and the propane in the camper is used up I would find myself in a very dangerous life threatening situation. I have fifty acres of forest and all the firewood I could use for life but my insurance company will not allow me to install a wood burning stove in my pole barn.

This was the first time we have stayed at the farm in this cold of weather. The Colonel and I have to do some serious re-thinking of how better to prepare to function and survive at the farm if we had to head there during an emergency in the middle of the winter.


When we got home I turned on the TV and the 1949 movie Battleground was on. It was about the 101st Airborne Division fighting at Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge, in that killer 1944 winter. I know former Staff Sergeant Earl McClung who fought with Easy Company of the 101St in that famous battle. Many of the survivors of that battle will still say to themselves on a cold winter night, “thank God I am not at Bastogne.”

As I got out of my truck on the trip home to Milwaukee to refuel in the single digit temperatures of Wisconsin, I did in fact think of Earl McClung and was thankful his generation fought in that desperate 1944 winter, so I would not have to and so my retired military family could be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2013.

Listening to Sgt. McClung talk about fighting and just trying to survive in the winter of 1944, having personally experienced the repeat European winter of 1984 and now dealing with the winter of 2013 at my farm in Wisconsin I need to analyze this information.

I must get better at being prepared to survive and keep my family safe in a winter catastrophe. Imagine your electricity going out for a month in your town in the winter.

Sadly good folks who are not ready will suffer and even die. Home for the Holidays–the dream of all military members and their families. It may not be Bastogne, but even at home state-side you have to survive the elements.

Thank you Earl McClung my family had a great Thanksgiving this year and partly because of your past efforts.

Major Van Harl USAF Ret.
[email protected]

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School.  A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI.  His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training.  He believes “evil hates organization.”  [email protected]

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6 years ago

Happy Thanksgiving
Semper Fi

Major Van Harl USAF Ret
Major Van Harl USAF Ret
6 years ago

I just opened an e-mail (28Nov2013) from a family friend of Sgt. Earl McClung. Earl died in his sleep last night. To his family I am so sorry. The word hero gets mis-used a lot in our modern society. However Sgt. McClung truly was an American hero. He will be missed.