Maple Point Hunt Club a seventh generation tradition

MAPLE POINT—A muddy, hilly path in the wilds of Maple Point, beyond Kagawong village, leads to what a select few know as ‘Camelot,’ also known as the Maple Point Hunt Club (MPHC) where seven generations of the Gordon family, and their friends, have been creating memories, sharing laughs and maybe even harvesting a deer or two.

Last Saturday this reporter tagged along with Stan Gordon, known to his fellow MPHC hunters as ‘Lukey Schitt’ or ‘The Great Pretender,’ to the hunt club as a group of hunter orange-clad men made last-minute preparations to the camp, consisting of a bunkie, sauna and the clubhouse itself.

“There have been seven generations of Gordons here,” Lukey (Stan Gordon) said proudly. Just then the door opened to reveal the youngest generation (and great-grandchildren), six-year-old Corbin and three-year-old Brynn Best, also outfitted in mossy oak and hunter orange for the occasion. Their mother and father, Robin and Clayton Best, recently purchased the hunt camp just down the road known as the Stiff Teepee from their great uncle Craege ‘Crafty’ McQuarrie, also a member of the MPHC, who passed away just last month. In fact, just last week, Corbin and his father had their first hunt together and the young hunter said he’s looking forward to more hunting treks with his family. “Me too!” Brynn announced. Ms. Best is also a sometime hunter, bow and rifle.

Hanging on the wall in the MPHC is a framed deed signed by Will Gordon, Lukey’s grandfather, in Manitowaning in 1913 for 100 acres purchased from the Ojibwas and Ottawas of Manitoulin Island. The deed is for the lot adjacent to the lot on which the hunt camp currently sits, but it’s all part of Camelot.

The Gordons own a lot of Maple Point, hundreds of acres, among them.

“I’ve been hunting here since 1945, at the age of 15,” the MPHC patriarch says from his perch in the clubhouse. Although, he admits, it’s been a little while since he’s shot a deer.

It’s not about the hunt so much as the camaraderie it brings, Lukey says. There’s a connection among hunters. While waiting for this reporter at the Bridal Veil Esso, a bustling spot filled with big trucks and trailers, Lukey shared a story about a conversation he struck up with a young hunter who had just pulled in. “I’m living my dream—I’m going hunting!” the man beamed at the senior hunter.” Lukey laughs.

There have been three successive versions of the Maple Point Hunt Club spread out over the two adjacent lots. The first began as a tarp over a haywagon, followed by a little camp that eventually became a full-fledged hunt camp.

Everyone at the camp has a nickname, like Stan Gordon’s “Lukey,” that must be earned, which is probably not that unusual among camps on the Island. What is unique to the MPHC is its annual newsletter, ‘Sober Facts,’ which arrives in the mail just before hunting season begins and is designed “to get your blood going,” Lukey chuckled.

Sober Facts is extensive, 12 pages in fact, written this year by son-in-law Greg Towns, aka Sparky. Sparky took over the role as scribe from the late Crafty and a section of this year’s newsletter pays tribute to him. The newsletter includes an excerpt from each day of the hunt, including the weather, what was for dinner and pokes fun at each of the hunters.

“With the approach and promise of the 2013 season the ‘Facts’ are being produced to serve as a not-so-gentle reminder of the antics of last year’s excursion and experiences and to incite a little excitement and yearning to return to see what adventures await for this year,” Sparky writes. “To that end, and after a year as busy with daily challenges as this past one, and in spite of the efforts of all that is modern and political, the pull of the hunt, the smell of the woods and the opportunity to return once again to Camelot is stronger than any real or perceived distraction. So clean up your guns, pack your own underwear and get yourself pointed to Camelot for another year of chuckles and giggles and a new chapter of memories. See you at the Point.”

‘Sober Facts’ is just about as old as the MPHC too, having its origins in the late 1940s as a piece of cardboard nailed to the wall with who shot what with tongue-in-cheek comments written in such as “Bill missed four deer.”

Sober Facts also includes a guest column from Stan Richards, the Maple Point hermit who disappeared without a trace in 1947. Each year a murder of crows brings Mr. Richards’ column from his hiding place in Maple Point, tied to a crow’s tail feathers. The mysterious Mr. Richards, Ritchie as he is known at MPHC, provides reflection on the previous year’s hunt and what could be done to better improve on it for the following season with notes for each of the hunters.

A rousing euchre tournament is held each year between the MPHC and the Stiff Teepee gangs who compete for the Daniel Poone Trophy. A recycled trophy, the Caribou Jack Award, also has pride of place in the hunt club with a bespectacled road runner sitting atop a wooden structure with names of hunters, past and present, dating back to 1976 care of label making machine stickers pasted to the side, honouring those with the biggest harvest each year. Last year, top honours went to The Paper Boy (Al Bois) for his six-point buck.

While Lukey wouldn’t share the origins of his name, he did tell the tale of how Big Coat Kickum Hat (Tom Beyers) came by his name.

“Tom Kickum Hat’s first hunt was 1959,” Lukey shared. “He got his name when we were chasing a chunk of bush when Tom was on watch. A doe and a fawn appeared and he emptied his gun but didn’t hit a thing. Then suddenly, a big buck walked out of the bush. He threw his big coat down, then his hat and kicked it across the field,” the patriarch laughed at the thought. Of course this was seen, but never lived down.

He shared another tale of hunting with his father, Stan Sr. The crew was out when they spotted a buck, shot him and wounded him before it headed into the bush. Searching for the buck, the MPHC found evidence of a blood trail—it had miraculously made it to the bluff which runs across Camelot. Hours later, suddenly, the buck appeared and collapsed, dead, at Stan Sr.’s feet.

“There sure are a lot of stories,” son Rory Gordon says of the MPHC. “Everyone looks forward to coming out.”

After a round of goodbyes at the MPHC, Lukey and this roving reporter headed back down the muddy trail for a quick stop at the Stiff Teepee then on to brother Bruce Gordon’s hunt camp. “If you can call it that, it’s their cottage too,” the elder brother said, noting its hydro hookup.

While Bruce had been and gone, avid hunters Bob Paxton from Little Current and Lukey/Stan’s nephew Blair Graham from Kagawong were there getting their lives organized for Monday. The pair hunts with Bruce and his crew each year.

“Bruce’s gang hunts on top of the bluff, and my gang hunts below and to the north,” Lukey explained.

Lukey noted a painting which hangs over the dinner table in the clubhouse, painted by his daughter-in-law Patti Gordon. The painting depicts the former hunt club, Mudge Bay glistening in the background. Crows sitting in the trees which hang over the club symbolize the MPHC members who have passed on, the crows on the ground the hunters who remain.

Lukey explained that he hunts with a 300 Savage, a gun passed on to him by his father just before he passed away. “He was quite proud of it, and so am I,” he said.

 Alicia McCutcheon