Deer camp work weekend is a precursor to Pennsylvania hunting season
Our little piece of heaven isn’t much. It’s a modest cabin on a small parcel adjoining Lycoming County public land. We started with humble beginnings in 1957, but have since expanded to include 23 dues-paying members, plus seven life and charter members whose longtime dues have earned them honorary status.
We are primarily a bear camp, though several members utilize our cabin during firearms deer season and have found great success in doing so. The statewide spring trout season opener brings in a handful of anglers, while fall turkey, grouse and archery seasons see less action, but we always enjoy ourselves.
Members share the summer weeks for vacation escapes with their families. It’s the time when we bring our wives, children and friends along to indulge in a relaxing, carefree outdoors experience – one filled with creek splashing, good food and plenty of laughter.
As part of our membership requirements, we have two mandatory work party weekends, one in the spring and one in the fall, during which we get the camp into shape for the respective summer and hunting seasons.
I always look forward to the September fall work party the most. Perhaps it is because I usually have less on my plate than in May, or maybe it’s just that I enjoy the anticipation of hunting season’s approach.
Our camp is full of activity this year. We divide the work and each do our share to prepare for the eventful months to come. While we work, we envision the memories to be made during future hunts and all that comes with the camp experience.
Beneath the steady buzz of Stihl chainsaws and an incessantly chugging log splitter, I see our woodshed replenished with a plentiful supply of fuel. In just a few short weeks, soft billows of smoke will waft from our chimney, and our cabin will be warmed by the dancing glow of fiery wood coals.
Several members put their time and efforts into sealing and insulating our new addition, a beautiful tin-metal mudroom above our side porch, which will provide more space for hunting gear storage during a crowded week at bear camp.
New rain gutters are hung, the chimney is cleaned and lighting fixtures are updated, as we continue our never-ending quest to improve and add to the comfort and efficiency of our little cabin – something we’ve done for six decades.
I take a moment to attach a new hanging cot-side bed stand to my military-style bunk. It is a cloth storage organizer for stashing an easy access bottle of water, an alarm, my slippers, glasses and a pair of earplugs to combat the snoring “bears” that hibernate a few bunks down from me. “Simple pleasures,” I mutter to myself with a smirk. It’ll surely come in handy over the next few months.
After dark, five of us take a ride up over the mountain to do a little deer spotting in preparation for archery season. Halfway through, the rain rolls in and dumps down in buckets. We continue on our way undeterred. It’s a nice relaxing ride, and we actually spot nearly a dozen deer in one field during a light break in the weather.
We return to camp for a story-telling session around the kitchen table that extends into the late hours of the night. Our beverage reserve runs low, and we finally retire to our bunks for some hard-earned slumber. It was a successful, productive weekend, and heavy sleep comes easy.
The next morning begins with a hot breakfast, followed by lots of cleanup. With floors swept, coolers emptied, trucks loaded and camp all locked up, the work is done and we are now ready to depart.
As we pull out of the drive, we take a final glance down at the cabin. It looks sharp, quiet, peaceful and inviting. Much has been accomplished and there is plenty to reminisce about.
Camp is ready for hunting season, and we are too. It won’t be long now.
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