Ask any native of Western Pennsylvania, and I'm sure they'll tell you that one of the best reasons for living in this part
of the country is the White Tail Deer hunting season. It falls on the first Monday after Thanksgiving each year, and it's
no coincidence that the schools are closed that day. Not because they want to extend the Thanksgiving holiday, but because
they realize that the number of absent students would make it impractical to hold classes that day.
The best part of the two-week deer season is not the actual hunting, but the gathering of friends and family in the many hunting
camps scattered throughout the Allegheny Mountains. This in itself is what makes so many people look forward to the hunting
season. It's the one time of the year where the men get together for their chance to let their hair down, and get away from
the dog-eat-dog world of working for a living.
Our hunting camp was located high in the mountains just outside of Rockwood Pennsylvania. On Labor Day of 1966, my dad and
about eight other guys pulled all of their resources together to begin constructing a 20 X 40 foot cabin, in hopes of having
a structure sound enough to house 20 deer hunters by the first day of buck season. It was a joint effort by all, working
on it in the evenings and weekends to build what would be in their eyes, the mother of all cabins.
By opening day of that year it was ready enough to serve it's purpose, however there were no luxuries in it like there is
today such as electricity or running water. It was basically a wooden shell with a fireplace, gas lights, and a coal stove.
Over the years, many improvements have been made but it still has the rustic sense of a hunting camp. Also over the years
most of the original founders of the camp have passed away and their sons, along with some new members, have kept the tradition
I have some great memories of that place when I was growing up. The oldest member of the camp, Doctor Homer Hay, once told
me that I would learn far more by spending a day at the hunting camp than I ever would in school. He was close to 80 years
old when the camp was constructed, and lived to spend several memorable hunting seasons there before he passed away. He was
truly a gentleman's gentleman, and to this day the camp is named in his memory; "Doc's Hideout".
As I mentioned earlier, the camp experience far outweighs the actual deer hunting. There were the penny ante poker games,
the stories from deer seasons gone by, and of course the annual dinner on the Sunday before opening day. This was the day
when the camp cook would put on a spread like no other. Friends from all over the mountain would come in to share the meal
and tell their stories of past hunting season, or just stop in for a beer.
As the Doc told me, I did in fact get an education at that place. It's where I learned to play poker, took my first drink
of beer with my dad, and I increased my vocabulary with words I never would've learned in school.
Unfortunately after I joined the Air Force I only got to spend a few more hunting seasons at the camp before my dad passed
away. Even though my brother Mike has kept the tradition of the camp alive as best he could by taking his sons back there
from Michigan to hunt, I have found it more and more difficult to break away from my life to join them. Even though I know
it'll never be like it once was, I do intend to return to the camp during white tail season some day, if for no other reason
than to rekindle the memories of the way it used to be.