Deer Camp Stories - Swarovski Builds 'Em Tough.

Posted by Michael E. on Apr 27th 2021

Deer Camp Stories - Swarovski Builds 'Em Tough.

My Dad and I often joke that tripods are the bane of our hunting existence. There's a million different options out there, and truthfully I don't know jack about most of them. That being said, there's one tripod that has developed a certain mystique between the two of us. 

A few years ago I set out for a last ditch effort to get a mule deer on the final weekend of hunting season. I was still in school, so I hadn't gotten out all year besides chasing a few does around in the nearby mountains. But with the help of a family friend who gave my Dad and I access to his ranch for the weekend, we were feeling confident we'd get into some deer at the tail end of the rut. 

We spent the first night getting a lay of the land, and glassed up a few does before dark. I was stoked. I felt optimistic about an opportunity to get after some deer and possibly put a buck on the ground before I had to head back to school Sunday night. Well, we woke up to just shy of 2 feet of snow, below 0 temps, and a steady 20mph wind. Nevertheless we set off to the ranch to see what we could find. 

Visibility was probably around 300 yards or less depending on how much snow the wind was kicking up. We hoofed around for a while, spooked up a young buck with some does, but that was it. After a few frozen hours we went back to the truck to get warm, and promptly bailed on the morning hunt to grab some lunch and hope the storm passed. 

Back in the motel, we dried out our gear, watched a football game where Ohio State beat Michigan senseless, and with only a few hours of light left and a decent weather window we set back out for an evening hunt. On the way into the ranch I spotted a doe from the road. As often happens during the rut, one doe turned into three, then five, and all of a sudden we're looking at a decent buck with ten or so does with him. The hunt was on. I didn't think twice about it, this was my deer. 

It couldn't have worked out better, we got within distance of the buck, let them feed over the hill, and I popped him at 150 yards with about 20 minutes of daylight left. My second mule deer, and first deer in 3 years. 

You're probably wondering how this all ties into tripods. Well, in all the post-hunt chaos that happens when you get something on the ground, I set down our Swarovski tripod and left it for dead. We didn't even realize it until we were home the next day and unpacking. My Dad gave me a fair amount of shit for it, and I used every excuse in the book to try and mitigate the loss–it was dark, it was cold, we got lost coming out, etc. We told the owner of the ranch when we shared the picture of my buck exactly where the tripod was, hoping he might come across it, but all we got was crickets. 

Over the next years, as my Dad and I would curse and praise the different tripods we've tried, it would always come back to the one I left at the kill site. It became a hunt in and of itself, some day if we ever got to go back, I was dead set on finding it. 

This season we did just that. I'd hunted the ranch the weekend prior and found a nice mule deer. I actually passed on him since I have another hunt on the horizon, but I went back with my dad and brother to try and put one of them on him. We got my brother to about 50 yards of him, but he was hauling ass chasing a doe and we never got an opportunity for a shot. The next day we went to look for him, but the drainage was empty, void of deer. With a few hours of light left, we set off to the drainage I killed my buck 3 years ago. 

We stared over the drainage, discussing where I shot the deer, where we gutted him, where we took pictures... nothing. All three of us poured over the hillside with binoculars and didn't see a thing. I looked at the picture of my deer for some reference, but aside from the fence line and a couple juniper bushes there wasn't anything obvious. 

Then it clicked. One of those ah-ha moments that makes you feel like a dumber than a sack of rocks. I figured over the last couple years the juniper bushes had probably grown a little bit. Then I found the same bunch from the picture, looked across the drainage, and without saying a word to my dad or brother hauled ass down the hill. I found our tripod. I grabbed it from the dirt, turned around and hoisted it high into the sky. Caked in mud, but no rust or noticeable damage. The legs were a little sticky, but the head still moved like a knife through butter. 


I've decided to name her Sheila. She took on a little rodent damage, but overall I think she's patina'd beautifully, and you're damn right she'll be in my pack from this Spring and forever after. I've got her nice and cleaned up, it's like she never left my pack. 

Nothing much more than what I think is a cool story, but the lesson holds true–buy shit that works, and will keep working in the worst conditions, or after you leave it in a pile of mud and it gets three seasons of snow on it. Stay tuned on Sheila, she's got a lot of work ahead of her as long as I'm still hunting. Maybe I'll even make her an instagram like a suburban girl with a new puppy.