The year was 1999. It took three men, three fathers to build CAMP 99 in four weekends. A grandfather, and two relatively new dads. The grandfather was the backbone, the financial advisor of the operation, and the overall voice of this initial lofty goal. Then we have the oldest son, the electrician, and the first one capable of crackin’ a joke to put the group at ease when it seemed as though there was no way of seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Last, but not least, the youngest son. Some might say the creative brains of the operation, the one who brought this idea to everyone’s attention, and the camp cook. Not a soul was leaving the table on an empty stomach as long as he was in attendance. So after years of scouting, and a little salesmanship, the wheels were finally in motion on this hunting cabin.

These were clearly different times, because in 2024 if anyone says there’s “no running water, and certainly no wifi”, there might be pushback. However, this was the 90’s, some might say simpler times. If it meant there was a place to kick the boots off, burn one, and have a few sips of brown water in the north woods without fear of any judgement, the convincing was done. After all, the goal was to build a place to create memories, and hopefully over time pass those traditions onto the next generation.

The four weekends had passed, and plenty of blood, sweat, and tears were poured into the new backbone of tradition. This place was rightfully labeled: CAMP 99. From a small parcel of land surrounded by state land it was lifted, framed, sided, shingled, and electricity surged through it’s entirety. Beers were cracked, polaroids were snapped, and as a group it was thought, “so now what?”

Years of tradition ensued. Basket racked bucks had been harvested on back-to-back-to-back opening days, plus second weekends after that. Fish were caught during countless openers and summers after that. Countless number of laughs were had over this time about all things whether it was a personal vent session or an in the moment wise-crack. It was obvious, this cabin was a foundation of family and great memories surged over time. The fall was booked for years to come over time because it became known that as time allowed, CAMP 99 was where commitment was made.

Jumping forward, as years passed, the dynamic had changed. The youngest son was now the sole property owner, and the cabin that was the life-blood of the original three had become a bit forgotten. No real big reason outside the normal nuances of life simply getting in the way. However, after a considerable amount of time passing there was a new cast of characters. The youngest son had two sons of his own. Going forward, there was a new trio to create memories similarly to the original three. A chance to spark tradition together for a different generation.

With the cabin infrastructure being in place it was more about the surrounding area to-do’s, and the actual hunts themselves. From hanging sets, scouting duck-sloughs, to finding new sled trails, and planting food plots. With these two new sons, there were also plenty of firsts to experience. And similar to how the original youngest son, who was now a father had experienced, were first gun bucks, to first bow bucks. Aside from the hunts there were impactful discussions, and ones that are usually hard to address unless you’re in the environment. Long chats about women around the campfire, and adversities in life that you endure that could only be addressed in the dark calm of northern pines. A location like this offered peace of mind. Time had slowed down, and it became clear that this pipe-dream cabin had blossomed into a bonding experience not many get to experience.

For every father, common interests and hobbies assist in building and growing a relationship with the youth, and this write-up is a testament to that. As seasons change, years go on, and a family dynamic changes, make sure to take a step back and count the blessings that may have taken place in your life. Not everybody has the luxury to experience time with their father through common interests. For the ones that don’t, we can’t pretend to speak on that, but for the ones who do? Thank you. Thank you to the Dads that have done their damndest to be involved, to find common ground, and to help introduce the great outdoors to our youth. Because of you, we have plenty of families and traditions similar to this that take place. Now the beauty of this specific story? Due to the once youngest son, now turned dad, and owner of this cabin, because of his work ethic, commitment, and love for his family, the tradition will continue to live on with a father and his two boys.

Written by Mitch Pantzke