Musings from a Pennsylvania Deer Camp

As with most Pennsylvanian hunters, the long-standing hunting tradition in my family has always centered predominately on the whitetail deer. Other species are pursued at leisure, but deer season is a much more serious affair. The largest buck in the woods are fantasized about at Thanksgiving, and come Christmas, stories of how they got away are shared between opening presents and around the dinner table.

The beginning of the opening week of Pennsylvania Rifle Season was about as wet as it could have been.

The beginning of the opening week of Pennsylvania Rifle Season was about as wet as it could have been.

Pennsylvania hunters’ (as well as my very own) affixation with deer has always puzzled me a little bit. At their core characteristics, they are a fairly average species. Sure, they are difficult to hunt, but harvesting a whitetail is not particularly rare. They are perpetually suspicious of danger, but rarely shy away from inhabiting areas populated with humans. Even their oft-acknowledged “beauty” would not compare to the coats of many other species. However, I find that my special connection with whitetail deer is a result of them being the purest form of nature that I regularly interact with.

Never was this representation truer than late this past Wednesday afternoon. As a vigorous, young buck chased an uninterested doe to and fro across the field before me, I witnessed personality traits of whitetails honed by millennia of existence. The innate instruction manual for the survival of a species was being played out barely fifty yards from where I sat. Such expressive demonstrations of an animal’s most critical life moments are something that many other more solitary species rarely offer to human eyes.

The chance to harvest a Whitetail Deer is always enough to get my heart racing, no matter the size.

The chance to harvest a Whitetail Deer is always enough to get my heart racing, no matter the size.

However, no part of Nature is ever left unaffected when comingled with mankind. The crosshairs in my scope eventually paused behind the buck’s shoulder, and his place in the ecosystem was vacated, to be filled by another. Some would contend that this is an unfair way to honor such an elegant animal. But I disagree.

~Hunters honor deer by spending long hours in extreme temperatures, searching for the animals they love. Whether in or out of season, hunters devote more time to the whitetail than any other game animal.

~Hunters honor deer by harvesting their meat to provide healthy and delicious food for families. Venison was always common on our dinner table growing up, and I have eaten more deer baloney sandwiches than I care to remember.

~Hunters honor deer by risking health and safety in order to pursue them in the most remote corners of our country. Unfortunately, cases remind us each year of how these risks will inevitably exact their toll.

~Hunters honor deer by taking specific care to cultivate a love and respect for whitetails in their children, and others of the next generation. I have been audience to more stories regarding deer than of any other topic in my 21 years, which I count as the most important reason for my love of deer hunting.

The list could go on forever. But more personally, some hunters like me choose to honor deer by putting aside schoolwork and skipping class for a few days to travel north and enjoy a few days pursuing the animals we love.

After all, hunting tales don’t make themselves, and Christmas is just around the corner.

 

-Ethan

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