Hook and Bullet Club: Visiting Camp Shack

by Nick Wognum

Camp Cholesterol finished the 2019 rifle season with two bucks in the freezer.
Daughter Megan and son Evan joined me for the final weekend but we couldn’t put another deer on the meat pole. Megan saw four does Sunday so there were some deer around, just not the kind we could shoot.
Earlier in the week I made a trip down Highway 1 and Lake County Highway 2, ending up just north of Gooseberry State Park.
My friend Forrest Johnson has a shack there and it had been over 20 years since I was there last.
Forrie owns the shack with two other guys, one of whom, Mark Smith, was there as well on Monday.
Camp Shack had changed quite a bit in those 21 years. A bunk room was added on the back and a sauna was built by the creek.
The biggest change was the forest around the shack. What had been clearcut just prior to my arrival two decades back had grown into a thick popple stand.
Trails through the area allow for neighboring hunting shack residents to stop by on their ATVs. Hearing the stories of opening weekend it sounded like Camp Shack was the place to be Saturday night.
Forrie is an accomplished writer who was unceremoniously let go by from the Lake County Chronicle when it was bought out by a newspaper chain.
He wrote a little for the Echo after that and now spends his summers in Alaska fishing for salmon. When he returns he runs a trapline of customers who buy his fresh frozen salmon by the case.
Monday night salmon was on the menu, cooked on the grill and topped with a delicious Soyaki sauce. Mark whipped up a batch of wild rice complete with sliced mushrooms and onions plus a pan of broccoli. A feast fit for a king. Or three kings.
We sat in the shack under the propane lights and told stories of past hunts, past jobs and how our past intertwined over the years.
A trip to Canada to go moose hunting was relived along with a follow up trip where we did some grouse hunting on the back roads of Armstrong along with Dan Scinto and Roger Skraba.
I can still see the sparks flying from the rim on the boat trailer after we blew a tire on the long road from Thunder Bay to Armstrong.
Forrie and Mark are in their retirement years now and still love the shack life. Antlers adorn the beams above us and photos of shack occupants hang on the walls.
I told the Camp Shack guys how Camp Cholesterol came to be after my visit to see them way back when. Seeing what they had and realizing I would want my kids to experience shack life led me to start Camp Cholesterol 20 years ago.
Mark kept the wood stove going, the coolers were tapped and the stories drifted into the woods around us.
Hunting has been slow in their neck of the woods so they’ve had a relaxed season filled with plenty of guests at all hours of the night.
But Forrie and Mark don’t seem to mind. In fact, for them that’s a key part of deer season. They were thrilled when two guys showed up at lunch on Tuesday, parked their ATVs and came in to sit for a spell and talk hunting.
Forrie made sure to invite them to come back Saturday night on the final weekend of the 2019 deer season.
I was thinking of them Saturday night at Camp Cholesterol as Megan, Evan and I were locked in a fierce battle of three handed cribbage.
There we were, out in the woods, keeping our wood stove going, telling stories of the hunt. And it’s all thanks to a trip I made to Camp Shack 20 years prior.
Thanks Forrie and Mark for showing me the hunting camp experience. Life has been better every since.