Because it’s too damn cold outside. So enjoy these sauna shots, and think warm thoughts.
When it comes to the role of deer in American culture, the intersection of deer and real estate is about far more than just hunting.
As I wrote in DEERLAND, it’s not only hunters who want to see more deer. All the rest of us do, too. Deer are somehow magical. They’re not just deer; they’ve come to mean something more. In our collective imaginations, they’ve become an archetypal symbol of the wilderness experience—or at least of a gentrified country experience.
One measure of this is the number of upscale suburban housing developments named after deer. A moment ago I searched for “deer estates,” and in 0.64 seconds Google returned “about” 20,900,000 hits. They included just plain “Deer Estates,” but also every conceivable variation—Deer Run Estates, Running Deer Estates, Dixie Deer Estates, Brown Deer Estates, Deer River Estates, Deer Creek Estates, Deer Path Estates, Deer Point Estates, Deer Pointe Estates, Deer Lake Estates, Deer Hill Estates, Deer Creek Ranch Estates, Estates at Deer Hollow, Deer Wood Estates, Deer Run Mobile Home Estates, and more.
And those are just the developments with “Estates” in their name. There’s also Deer Valley, Deer Run, Deer Path, Running Deer Trail, Deer Creek, Deer Park, Deer Ridge, Deer Lake, Deer View, Deer Run Terrace, and—well, you get the idea. The marketers who cook up these names are selling the dream of deer, but also the dream of what deer signify. They know we’ll happily commute farther and borrow more so we can live in places that somehow feel just a little wilder.
And since my wife is a Realtor, I’ve learned a lot about how deer, or even just the idea of deer, can help sell real estate far beyond the suburbs—including here in northern Wisconsin. Here’s an example: The hoofprint at the top of this post was on a trail meandering through twelve acres of land beside a lake home that Jean just listed near Minong, Wisconsin. Now, that hoofprint isn’t what will sell the place. It’s a beautiful home, inside and out. It also has an incredible view. That’s what the new owners will be buying. They’ll tell friends back down in the city about their million-dollar view, not their million-dollar hoofprint.
It’s also nice to have a little privacy up at the lake. A little extra elbow room. And to live in a place that really feels like it’s up north, not just out at the edge of the city. And to walk your own land every morning without seeing the footprint of another human—only the fresh hoofprints of deer. So in some very small, subtle, and indirect way, that hoofprint does add to the home’s value. OK, maybe not by a million dollars. Still, enough hoofprints in enough back yards, and they start to add up.
But who’s counting? After all…. Some things can’t be counted or measured. And some hoofprints are priceless.
Meanwhile. . . . If you’ve seen enough hoofprints, and would like to see the actual house and its view of the lake, keep scrolling down.
© 2016 Al Cambronne
Some deer hunters sit on stumps, and some sit on tiny elevated platforms atop ladder stands. Others prefer to be more comfortable.
In my last post about American deer culture, I wrote about the OSB school of interior design. On the same property, however, this elevated deer stand is heated, insulated, and nicely finished. Somehow, the current owners even got an office chair up there. And the carpet appears to be the exact same pattern I have in my own office.
This deer stand is smaller than the lake homes and cabins usually being sold by my Realtor wife. But in one way it’s just like those half-million dollar lake cabins: what really sells the place is its view. If you’re a deer hunter, this is the sort of view you dream about.
And now a word from our sponsor… If you know any deer hunters looking for a place with a view like this (and also the deer shack and 77 acres that go with it), tell them to click here. For more elegant, less rustic listings, click here. For Jean’s Northwest Wisconsin Real Estate blog, click here. And for more photos, keep scrolling down.
Next time: The Million-Dollar Hoofprint.
Keith Warnke, the Wisconsin DNR’s Hunting and Shooting Sports Coordinator, just sent me an email with the subject line “Your Book in Action.” It’s one of the best endorsements ever for Gut It. Cut It. Cook It.: The Deer Hunter’s Guide to Processing and Preparing Venison.
He told us the WI DNR is using our book in its Learning to Hunt for Food course, and that participants love it. These new hunters have found Gut It. Cut It. Cook It. an incredibly helpful and supportive resource; as you can see from Keith’s photos, it’s field-tested and learner-approved. (If you’re squeamish, don’t look at these photos—or the ones in the book. But that’s where venison comes from.) Every year the DNR orders around 50 copies for students enrolled in its learn-to-hunt program.
In an effort to increase hunter participation, the DNR is now holding these courses all around the state. If you’re an adult who’s curious about hunting, if you want to start from the very beginning, and if you’re especially interested in venison rather than antlers, then one of these Learning to Hunt for Food courses might be for you.
Similar courses are offered in other states. Here in Wisconsin, more sessions will be held in 2016; later, as the schedule gets firmed up, you can check the WI DNR website for more information.
As I noted in my last post, deer shacks are supposed to be a little on the rustic side. This example belongs to what I like to call the OSB school of interior design.
(I should explain that OSB is short for “Oriented Strand Board,” a material that, although used quite heavily in modern construction, is usually concealed under drywall, siding, or some other material. It looks like that stuff you see everywhere in the above photo.)
Deer camp purists may feel that indoor plumbing is strictly for wimps. This deer shack, however, features a splendid compromise: hot showers powered by an ingenious “barrel, electric pump, and overhead water heater built from a beer keg” system. The same system also provides hot water for the kitchen sink.
It’s convenient, but not too convenient. Because remember, we’re here for the deer.
And now a word from our sponsor… If you know any deer hunters seeking a fine exemplar of the OSB school of interior design (and even more so those 77 acres of great hunting land that go with it), tell them to click here. For more elegant, less rustic listings, click here. For Jean’s Northwest Wisconsin Real Estate blog, click here. And for more photos, keep scrolling down.
Next time: Taking Deer-Camp Real Estate Photography to New Heights….
It’s time to wake up my hibernating blog.
Sorry for the silence, but business has been busy lately. Plus, I was a little uncertain about how to proceed. I’m due for a total website makeover, and the changes will be more than skin-deep. That’s coming soon. For now, however, I’ll at least wake up my blog.
So here’s the scoop. My next writing projects probably won’t be about deer, and I can’t say more until it’s time. Meanwhile, I’ve also been busy with this side gig. It’s not exactly a day job, because it’s not exactly a job. And it doesn’t always end at the end of the day.
My wife is a Realtor, and the past couple years I’ve been doing more to support that enterprise. Real estate has become the family business, and selling real estate requires words and images. So behind the scenes, I’ve been helping out a little.
Every now and then, these two worlds collide. In DEERLAND I devoted an entire chapter, “The Deer of Buffalo County,” to a bizarre corner of southwestern Wisconsin where trophy deer temporarily drove the local real estate market totally insane. True, Buffalo County may be an extreme example. But all across vast swaths of America, deer are now the #1 driver of the rural real estate market. There, deer land is worth far more than farm land.
Here in northern Wisconsin, the #1 driver of our local real estate market is lake homes and cabins. Some are quite modest. Others stretch the word “cabin” right to the breaking point. That’s where most of the action is. At the lake. But every now and then, we do sell a few chunks of nice hunting land. Sometimes they include cabins, but these are called “deer shacks,” not “deer cabins.” In this context, I should explain for the uninitiated, the word “shack” is not an insult. It’s just what they’re called.
And if you’re going up north to deer camp, your deer shack is supposed to be a little rustic. Kind of like the one pictured below. Because the structure you’re far more interested in is your deer stand. That’s why it got first billing in this post—and sometimes even does in real estate listings.
And quite often, at least in the eyes of the hunters who buy these properties, the most compelling photos are not the beautiful landscapes or the stunning interiors I’ve carefully composed, lighted, and processed. They’re trailcam selfies that prove the deer are here.
And now a word from our sponsor… If you know anyone who might be interested in 77 acres of northern Wisconsin hunting land with a rustic but well-maintained deer shack, tell them to click here. For more elegant, less rustic listings, click here. For Jean’s Northwest Wisconsin Real Estate blog, click here. And for more photos, keep scrolling down.
Next time: Deer Camp and the OSB School of Interior Design.
The other day, while researching a story that had absolutely nothing to do with deer, I discovered this marvelous ad for deer hair sweat pads. It made me sweat with curiosity.
Was it an idle boast, or was this truly the best-equipped harness shop in northern Wisconsin? Either way, it probably didn’t have much competition within a two-day ride. Still, in 1906 the area would have still boasted far more harness shops than auto mechanics. Most residents of Hayward and the surrounding area had yet to lay eyes on their first automobile.
For a modern reader, the ad raises many questions. With daily use, how long did harnesses last before they needed to be repaired—and then finally replaced altogether? How much of a market was there for harnesses, decorative trimmings, whips, and lap robes? Over the years that followed, how long would that market remain strong? And most of all… What’s up with the deer hair sweat pads?
Sweat pads placed between a draft horse’s shoulders and its leather collar were once a key piece of transportation technology, and in 1891 a patent dispute over an innovative sweat pad design went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although today’s market is a bit smaller, traditionalists still prefer sweat pads filled with deer hair felt. Even modern synthetics have a tough time beating deer hair’s combination of softness, absorbency, and springy, cushy resiliency.
What gives deer hair sweat pads these unique properties? Hollow hairs. In early autumn deer shed their summer coats in favor of a thicker winter coat made of highly insulative hollow hairs. After the previous year’s hunting season, the hairs on many northern Wisconsin deer may have ended up as stuffing in organic, locally sourced sweat pads manufactured in the back room of the Hayward Harness Shop.
Farmers usually owned multiple pads for each horse; that way they could swap out the soggy ones at least daily. (Over time, these pads are said to acquire a distinctive odor vaguely resembling that of wet dogs.) To maintain a collar’s fit as horses gained and lost weight throughout the seasons, farmers also used an assortment of pads in different thicknesses.
In 1906, however, many of Edward Suckau’s northern Wisconsin customers would have been loggers, not farmers. All winter, crews used draft horses to pull sledges piled high with massive white pine logs. From where they fell, logs were hauled to the banks of the nearest river. The next spring, loggers floated them downstream to distant sawmills. (Back then, logrolling was not a recreational pursuit.) A vast region stretching across northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan was already becoming known as “the big cutover.”
If you’d like your very own deer hair sweat pad, they’re available out there on the internet right now. Prices range from around $24.00 to $60.00, depending on size and thickness. In contrast, the Sears Roebuck catalog once listed the “Lumberman’s Extra Heavy and Wide Sweat Collar” in a variety of sizes for $5.50 per dozen.
As for prices at the Hayward Harness Shop, well, we should have called sooner. From Ed’s phone number, we can tell he was an early adopter who lived in a small town. Rather conveniently, we’d only need to remember two digits.
© 2015 Al Cambronne