The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 24, 2012

Don Steese column: Cabin fever

By Don Steese
For The Daily Item

— We’re less than 24 hours away from the Super Bowl of Pennsylvania outdoor sports.

Opening day of firearms deer season begins tomorrow morning at daybreak. Granted it’s somewhat less an event than it used to be but it’s still huge. About three quarters of a million Pennsylvania deer hunters will sleep restlessly tonight with thoughts of 10-pointers drifting through their heads.

Time was we’d have about a million hunters out on what we used to call the first day of deer season. There are a lot of first days now, with archery, muzzleloader and junior-senior seasons all behind us, but tomorrow will still see tons of blaze orange in those Pennsylvania woods.

This weekend is the one that northern tier business people live for. Bars, restaurants, motels, gas stations, grocery stores and the like will do as much business this weekend as they do in some months. With the natural gas boom sweeping our northern tier counties this is not as true as it once was, but deer season still rings cash registers, which is music to a small businessman’s ears.

Hunting camps, some of which haven’t seen a human since last November, will be filled with the kind of comaraderie that only occurs in deer camp or boot camp. If you’ve never experienced it, I can’t explain it to you, but it’s a big a part of deer hunting as deer rifles and treestands.

The procession began on Wednesday with folks who’s deer hunting tradition includes Thanksgiving dinner at camp, some more traffic could be seen moving north on Thursday evening and then on Friday, Saturday and today the traffic heading north on Route 15, 180, 220, 120 or 44 was almost bumper-to-bumper. Pickup trucks and SUVs were loaded down with guns, groceries, gear, ATVs, and orange-clad passengers and all were headed for that greatest place on the planet — deer camp!

As you read this I will have been in camp for four nights already. Grouse hunting will have accounted for three-and-a-half days, today will be for resting, and then tomorrow and Tuesday we’ll be chasing bucks.

I’m figuring on heading home mid-week and then heading back up a week from tomorrow for a few more days of chasing whitetails. Our camp is about as small as they come, with only a couple guys showing up anymore, but we’ll enjoy ourselves nonetheless.

Us old guys like things a bit quieter anyhow. We’ve done the math and we could stay in a pretty nice motel and eat at some pretty fancy restaurants for what it costs us to have a camp with just the two of us but somehow it just wouldn’t be the same. Sitting in front of the mountain stone fireplace listening to the gas lights softly hiss after tossing back a nice camp-cooked meal has a certain allure. So does stepping out onto the front deck and hearing a couple owls competing to see who can sound the most haunting.

The stars never look so bright at home either and if you can’t see any stars, there’s a good chance you’ll be serenaded to sleep that night by the sound of rain pattering on the roof, or better yet, you’ll awaken to a fresh coat of newly fallen snow.

Ahhh, the joys of another Pennsylvania deer season are upon us again.

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