There are still goosebumps on my arms as I type this introduction. I just experienced — witnessed, really — the opening of a 30-year-old time capsule.
It all started when I picked up the phone and “met” Keith Cauwenbergh, a loyal D&DH subscriber from Green Bay, Wis. He wasn’t calling to complain about an article, advertisement or subscription premium. He wasn’t trying to sell me a story about his latest hunt or a photo of a trophy buck in his backyard. And he wasn’t asking why he his cable company didn’t carry our TV show.
He had but one simple question.
“I’m calling to see if you know anything about this group that called themselves ‘The Stump Sitters,’ ” Keith asked.
When I told him the group, in fact, begat D&DH, Keith explained that he had recently returned from his family’s North Woods cottage where he had found an 11-by-17-inch piece of paper that appeared to have been produced by the Stump Sitters some years ago.
“There is a drawing of two bucks with their antlers locked together on the front,” he said, “And the mailing address on the back of it lists a Post Office box in Appleton.”
The hair on the back of my neck immediately stood on end, because I was almost positive Keith had unearthed, in my opinion, the equivalent of a Mickey Mantle rookie card: an authentic original copy of the first issue of Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine.
What makes this story truly incredible is not the fact that only 200 copies were produced during that first printing of D&DH in July 1977. It is not even the fact that it is but one of perhaps six known copies that remain from that press run.
No, what makes this story extra special is the manner in which it was preserved.
Cauwenbergh said the copy of the magazine belonged to his dad, Donald, who had taken it to deer camp and stored it in an old desk drawer along with his Air Force canteen, a broken slingshot and some of his hunting maps and notes. The desk was located on a screened porch of the family’s cottage and had not been disturbed since Donald’s death … 30 years ago.
“I guess this goes to show how much my dad loved the outdoors,” Keith said upon learning of the paper’s significance. “I still remember following him around in the woods when I first started hunting, and that was in the early 1960s. He was always trying to improve his knowledge. I even remember the time when he shot a big buck with his shotgun but lost it. He never wanted that to happen again, so he went right out and bought a .32 Marlin.
“I’ve read a lot of hunting magazines over the years, but I really like Deer & Deer Hunting because of the technical, mostly scientific, information it provides,” Keith said. “I’ve always been more interested in learning something new than hearing some guy’s story of a big deer that he shot.”
The irony in that statement is something all of us here at D&DH will forever cherish.