The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Tom Lavis

November 6, 2011

Tom Lavis | Voila! Hunter still relies on luck

Hunting is the crux of today’s monthly Outdoors in the Laurel Highlands series.

There are many sides to this sport.

I have always admired the purists who bag a deer each year and then brag about it for the next 11 months.

I’ve never been that fortunate.

Granted, I don’t put the time in the woods like these experts who do preseason scouting, place game cameras in the field and make every effort to mask their scent.

I rely strictly on luck, which has provided me with a fair amount of venison through the years.

I don’t believe in covering my clothes with fancy concoctions to make me smell like tree bark or a doe in heat.

Instead, I use the time-honored family tradition of getting together with my relatives to attend a hunter’s breakfast sponsored by a local fire company or sportsmen’s club.

Forty-five minutes of enjoying a hearty meal of sausage and pancakes usually is enough time to mask my scent with the aroma of grease and maple syrup.

Years ago, I would travel to an uncle’s deer camp for a week of recreation.

I come from a long line of Eastern Europeans who believe that the meat won’t fry if the bullets don’t fly.

There is something to be said for generations of hunters returning to a place where their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents hunted.

Many times, deer camp isn’t about hunting. It is about getting away from home and relaxing around the camp, playing poker and downing a few slugs of libation after dinner.

If you are old enough to remember when 4x4’s all came with locking hubs, then you are from a generation who probably still has a red-plaid Woolrich hunting coat stored in the basement.

While traditional hunting camps still exist, many things have evolved.

Instead of a poker game occupying the hunters’ evenings, younger hunters prefer surfing the Internet, playing video games and checking emails, if there is wireless service.

Great-grandpap is probably cradling his old 30-40 Krag and rolling over in his grave.

The cast-iron Dutch oven for cooking has been replaced with the microwave oven.

The percolator coffeepot has been abandoned for the new one-cup brew machines.

I understand why, though.

I was a big fan of cowboy movies growing up and remember seeing these cowpokes make coffee over a campfire out on the range.

They would throw several handfuls of grounds into a big boiling coffeepot and voila, fresh java.

I tried doing it that way only once.

I gave up the notion instantly when my first swig tasted as if I just gulped a cup of sawdust.

And there’s no need for a compass anymore. It has been replaced with a handheld GPS.

With my limited technical skills, if I got lost in the wilderness and my body were found two months later, the funeral director would have to tell my wife that he can’t get the “how the heck do you work this GPS?” look off my face.

I’m hunting close to home this season but I’ll still keep a few traditions.

For breakfast, I’ll fry up enough bacon to coat a cast-iron skillet to produce a liberal amount of grease, which I’ll use to fry eggs.

I’ve convinced myself that the extra bacon fat converts to energy when you’re in the field. Also, deer testing the wind will be fooled by the odor of bacon grease instead of catching a whiff of human scent.

I see venison in my future.

Just the word venison separates me from other hunters.

A few of my friends are superb deer hunters and they just call it deer meat.

One of my friends once told me that his wife won’t cook deer meat anymore.

“It smells,” she told her husband.

That’s the same woman who ordered a prime venison fillet from the menu at a ski resort last winter.

She fell for the fancy menu description which stated that the choice cut of meat is slow basted and steadily cooked to fork tender perfection.

Sounded like is was cooked in a Crock-Pot to me.

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