Taking Deer-Camp Real Estate Photography to New Heights

Deer Stand, copyright 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.

View From Treestand, copyright Al Cambronne

Arrows Ready, copyright Al Cambronne

Deerstand Window, copyright Al Cambronne

Deer and Real Estate

Deer Stand, copyright Al Cambronne

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.

Next time: Deer Camp and the OSB School of Interior Design.

Typical Deer Shack, copyright Al Cambronne

Deer Selfie, copyright Al Cambronne

Bear Selfie, copyright Al Cambronne

I Manufacture Deer Hair Sweat Pads

Deer Hair Sweat Pads, Copyright Al Cambronne

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