The Tradition of Deer Camp Isn't About the Harvest

Every year, just after Thanksgiving, my family and friends would head to the mountains of central Pennsylvania for the annual deer gun season opener. We camped in one open area for more than a decade. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Flinn)

For many hunters, deer hunting is part of a lifestyle; it's about the gathering, stories, food, recalling old memories and creating new ones

It’s no secret, I’m a deer hunting fanatic; it was a passion instilled in me long ago. I attended my first deer camp in the woods of Pennsylvania when I was eight years old, four years before I was able to legally hunt. Able to hunt or not, the level of excitement was no less intense.

Going to deer camp, with friends and family, was much more than harvesting deer. Anyone looking at our success over the past four decades could easily come to the same conclusion. At best, our deer camp group would harvest three to four bucks on the opening day of the Pennsylvania gun season. Some years, there may be only one, and sometimes none, harvested on opening day.

Harvesting deer wasn’t the main reason we packed up the vehicles and headed to the mountains for four to five days every year; it was a tradition. A tradition that runs deep in my family, just like many others.

The Pennsylvania Gun Season is open right now, and

Nate Hosie, a Pennsylvania resident and host of Headhunters TV on Outdoor Channel, and I were talking recently about the tradition of deer hunting. Hosie has spent many days in the Pennsylvania woods seeing does and small bucks, but seeing deer isn’t what brings him joy; it’s the gathering.

“(I’m) hunting with my family and friends. There are a few I’m (still) waiting on that just haven’t showed, but regardless, I’m having a blast,” Hosie said.

In my opinion, the gathering to honor the hunting tradition is often missing in today’s deer hunting society. Many deer camps have dried up due to various reasons. Gone with them are the opportunities for many to escape the daily grind of a hectic work schedule, for no other reason than to be among other hunters and in the woods.

With an active family and busy work schedule of my own, it’s been several years since I’ve been to my deer camp. I miss the campfires, stories and company I experienced every year for nearly two decades.

It’s not easy to be away from those traditions, but soon enough my focus will be to make sure my own children have those same experiences. Deer camp molded me as a hunter and as a person. I would not trade for the world for those memories.

I’ll leave you with this: If you have never experienced a deer camp, I highly encourage you to do so at some point. If a deer camp does not exists within in your family, ask your friends or co-workers, or maybe start one of your own.

Being part of a deer camp will likely produce your best hunting memories, with or without tagging a single deer.

My grandpa, Jerry T. Nedley (a.k.a “Pap”), was one of the founders of our deer camp. He introduced many family members and friends to the traditions of deer hunting. He recently passed away, but his stories and influence will never be forgotten. This sums up my Pap in about 60 seconds, they don’t make them like him anymore. Thanks for everything Pap!

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