Your 1st Day at Deerhorn

This coming summer, we have more than 150 kids who will be coming to Camp Deerhorn for the first time. Even those who have attended Father Son camp with their dads will find that the schedule for regular sessions is quite different. We are super excited to welcome these new campers into the Deerhorn Family. We understand that first-year campers might have some anxiety about coming to camp, wondering what those first days will be like. So, if you are a first year camper,  this blog post series is for you! Our first blog post last week featured some helpful hints in preparing for camp. In today’s post, we’re going to focus on the schedule for opening day. The most important thing to know about the first few days at Deerhorn is that there are always people around who you can ask if you have questions!

We have some kids who arrive at Deerhorn by car, a few by airplane, but the majority of our campers arrive on our camp bus, which comes up from Chicago. When your parents fill out your travel form, they will let us know how you will be arriving at camp. For kids who are flying, we provide transportation to camp, but only from Rhinelander Airport, and parents need to supply the flight information on the travel form. If you arrive by car, there will be staff in the parking lot ready to greet you, take your stuff to your koogee, and help you get settled. (What’s a koogee? Check out our Deerhorn Dictionary to learn all the Deerhorn lingo!) We suggest families arriving by car arrive between 9am-11am, or 12:30pm-2:30pm. It’s best to arrive before 3:00, when our buses arrive from Chicago.  Parents are welcome to park and walk around camp when they arrive.  After you get settled, you’ll find out what temporary activity group you are in for the day, and what activities that group is doing. This isn’t the same group you’ll be in for the rest of the session, but just for opening day.

Lunch will be at noon, and you’ll hear a first call at 11:50, when everyone heads toward the lodge and washes hands before second call goes over the PA at noon. Then you can go into the dining hall. We say a short grace and then our lunch is served family style. At lunch, you can sit wherever you want to, but at dinner you’ll check the table list to see where you’re sitting for the week. We will do a few short announcements after lunch, before releasing everyone for rest hour. Rest hour on opening day is a little different. You don’t have to be in your koogee, but you can do any activities that don’t require a counselor, like tennis, basketball, or tetherball. You aren’t allowed to be on the waterfront during this time. Another important camp rule during your entire time at camp is that you aren’t allowed in any koogee but your own. Typically, depending on the weather, we will do swim tests after rest hour for all kids who just arrived that day. That allows you to get your swim test done before all of the bus kids arrive. The swim test is just for us to be able to see what kind of swimmer you are. It’s simply four lengths inside our “A-Dock,” whatever stroke you want to do. After your swim test, you’ll go to two more activities, with the second one ending when the buses arrive. (When you hear the bell ringing during the day, it signals the beginning or end of an activity period.)

Our buses from Chicago typically arrive at camp around 3pm. For those kids who arrived by car or plane, you’ll just head back to koogee row when the bus arrives, to greet the other members of your koogee and help them move their baggage. If you arrive on the camp bus, you’ve probably already made some new camp friends on the way up! It might be a little overwhelming when you get off the bus and there are so many kids milling around, but we’ll help you find your way! The first thing you’ll do is look at the bulletin board by the soccer field to find out what koogee you’re in. Then you’ll walk down the road toward koogee row to wait for your baggage to be delivered.

We have a very old truck who we affectionately call “Big Green,” whose sole purpose in life is to move baggage. Counselors will get all the trunks and duffels off the bus, you don’t have to worry about that part. You just wait for the baggage to be brought to koogee row. Once you  make sure you have all of your baggage, staff and older campers can help you move it to your koogee so you can get settled in!

If you arrived on the bus, after you get settled into your koogee, you’ll hear an announcement to head down to the beach to take your swim test. Everybody has to take a swim test every year, even the kids who have been at Deerhorn before. After your swim test, you can head back to your koogee to change clothes and hang out with new friends.

After all of the swim tests are done, we will make an announcement for everyone to gather in the lodge for a quick meeting. This is a chance for the staff to introduce themselves, as well as for us to go over a few important rules about camp, and the schedule for the rest of the day. After the meeting, if there’s time before dinner, you’ll be divided into groups by age and go do an activity like sprout ball or soccer. First call for dinner goes at 5:50pm, and everyone heads down to the lodge to wash hands at the hand-washing station on the lake side of the lodge. It’s really important to wash hands before every meal. We want everyone to stay healthy! Before you go into the dining room, you’ll need to check the table list on the bulletin board in the lodge to see which table you’ve been assigned. That’s the table where you’ll sit for the first week of camp.

After we eat dinner, family style, everyone helps clear the table and waits for announcements. After dinner, you’ll do an all-camp activity, like Capture the Flag. At 8:15pm, there will be an announcement for milkline. That’s when you gather with your koogee group  by the lodge, and go into the dining room for a glass of milk and a cookie.  Teenagers get something a little extra. You’ll head back to your koogee with your group, and get ready for bed. Bedtime for 11 years and younger is 9:00pm, 12 year-olds is 9:15, and 13 and up is 10pm. We know it might seem way earlier than you usually go to bed, but our bell rings at 7:15 the next morning to get the day started!

It might be hard to go to sleep that first night. Maybe because it’s not your bed, or maybe because you’re missing home. Maybe you’re just too excited to sleep! We understand all that, but we just ask that you are quiet after lights out so that others can sleep. We have no doubt that by the second night, you’ll be really tired from a full day of having fun!

We hope this blog post helps answer some questions about your very first day at Deerhorn. In our next post, we will talk more about what to expect in the first few days! If you have questions or concerns, feel free to email We can’t wait to get the fun started!

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