[Author’s Note: The men who agreed to be interviewed for this article insisted on anonymity and a promise not to disclose the locations of their blinds. My appreciation and thanks to The Old Man, The Soldier and The Cowboy for allowing a sneak peek into the male mystique.]
Why does a man willingly leave a safe, spacious, comfortable, solidly constructed house with every modern convenience to crouch for countless hours in a two-by-three-foot hunting blind that lacks every creature comfort and sometimes a roof and walls as well? Judging from the confused reaction the question produced in the men asked, it’s obvious that they either thought the question rhetorical, or it touched a male instinct too primal for words. The best answer came from a guy who put it this way, “A man needs a place in the woods, and it don’t have to be fancy.”
The Soldier led me on a hike through a 250-acre wooded tract, home to over 35 hunting blinds of every size, shape and type, each a unique marvel of engineering and architecture. After navigating a homemade bridge across a briskly flowing stream, he pointed out blinds with the panache of a tour guide indicating celebrity homes in Beverly Hills. They are as follows:
The Bow Stand. This is the Soldier’s sentimental favorite, inherited from a neighbor who gave it to the Soldier along with his membership in the private club that leases the land. A classic tree stand of traditional wooden construction, the Soldier has maintained its structural integrity, making only one necessary modification—replacement of the original steps with a ladder.
The Tripod. This precarious perch of a tree seat takes its name from the three supports that hold it in place. Lacking a roof and walls, it’s covered only with black mesh that serves to camouflage the hunter but provides little, if any, protection from the elements.
The Tikki Hut. Only a former Marine fitness instructor would have the strength and stamina to haul building tools and materials to the site of this ground shelter. Just walking over this rough terrain, well off the beaten path (and made worse by hurricane Sandy damage), is strenuous exercise. This variation on a lean-to has a roof and three walls, making it the most weather-proof of the blinds described above. However, within 15 feet of the hut, I spotted fresh bear scat. Was the bear holed up in the Tikki Hut?
On my return from the backwoods, I explored two other blinds that are barely visible from public roads:
The Polish Palace. The name says it all, recognizing both the owner/builder’s Polish heritage and the shelter’s palatial style and proportions. Additionally, this is the only shelter that can be said to have genuine décor that includes carpeting, swivel chairs worthy of a law office and decorative cushions.
The top story of this duplex was built in the owner’s youth. As he matured and his family expanded to include three sons, avid hunters all, the lower story was added. The eldest of those sons now has teenage daughters with the old man’s blood in their veins. When the planned ground-level story has been completed, each generation will have its own level.
The Bat Cave. So named because it’s hidden beneath a boulder, this shelter has a contemporary vibe expressed by its stylish appointments—a plastic chair worthy of the Museum of Modern Art and a plastic bowl that could be anything from a chamber pot to a finger bowl and may, at various times, have done duty as both.
Ladies, although I still don’t know exactly why men take to the woods, it occurs to me that they may have discovered in their woodsy lairs what we’ve known forever: that a few hours spent in Mother Nature’s domain does wonders to restore the spirit.