There don’t seem to be as many deer as there used to be, but that barely detracts from the tradition of heading into the woods this week for deer camp.
“The food’s good, the beer’s good and the camaraderie is great,” Red Kyler of Tire Hill said at Centennial Farm Gun Club house in Conemaugh Township.
“We get together. That’s what counts,” Kyler said.
Camp coordinator Mike Hoover of Davidsville said this year’s band of nine hunters arrived Saturday and will stay at the private club grounds through Tuesday evening.
“We used to just come up here Sunday before deer season,” Hoover said. “We like to come up here so much, we decided to just come up Saturday and relax and unwind for a day before we go out hunting.”
All those in camp pitch in by bringing food and cooking, Kyler said.
“We ate like kings last night,” he said, listing strip steaks, filet mignon, beef brisket and venison on the menu.
Like hunters across the state, the Centennial Farm members have been following news reports of Pennsylvania’s declining deer herds. Some say the Cambria-Somerset county area has seen the biggest drop, Hoover noted. Last year, just two from the camp were successful.
There are many theories on the decline, and the Centennial members have their own observation.
“We’ve seen more sign of coyote than ever, the past five years than we’ve ever have seen,” Hoover said.
While they know others from the region who travel to other areas in search of the trophy buck, those at the Centennial Farm clubhouse say the local tradition brings them back. A second-generation club member, Hoover brought his son, Zach, to camp this year.
Getting outdoors and enjoying the company of their friends and family is the most important part of deer camp, Mike Hoover said.
“A bad day of hunting is better than a good day at work,” he said with a laugh.
Randy Griffith is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com