September–October 2023

A Weekend at the Shack

Photographer Caleb Leto documents his friend's old-school deer camp, where tradition mingles with adventure.

When Caleb Leto’s friend Bill Scott invited him to his deer shack near Orr in northeastern Minnesota, Leto jumped at the chance to join a small hunting party. A freelance photographer, Leto brought his camera along to document the gathering, which took place the second weekend of firearms season in November 2021. Rounding out the hunting party were Scott’s grandson and three other friends and family members. The crew’s focus would be on hunting white-tailed deer, but they’d also carve out time for card playing, storytelling, and snacking on venison.

For 31 years, Scott’s rustic, old-school hunting shack has given visitors a place to find tradition in their hunting experience. “The camp gives those who visit no choice but to immerse themselves in the way things used to be,” says Leto. Gas lanterns, a wood stove, and an outhouse all add to the setting’s simple, rugged feel, as does the freedom to walk out the front door and into the wilderness. 

The cabin sits on 80 acres adjacent to Kabetogama State Forest. Stories of successful opening mornings from years past cover the walls in the form of antler mounts, each stamped with a name and a date. Traditional hunting camps such as Scott’s help keep generations engaged and active in Minnesota’s natural resources.

On the weekend depicted in these pages, the hunters mostly stayed on Scott’s land, but Leto also wandered into the state forest to scout for signs of deer. Though the hunting party was shut out, it didn’t matter. Says Leto, “It was just the experience of having a place where you wake up in the morning, grab your rifle, put on your orange, step out the door, and you’re hunting.”