It was 2009 Rifle Season in Potter County, Pennsylvania. I was twelve years old at the time, and this being my first official year at "deer camp" I was very anxious. We settled into camp on Sunday night and prepared for the hunt the next morning.Day break came early Monday morning. A blanket of snow had covered the top of the mountain overnight. We bundled up and hit the woods. This year my dad and I would be watching a huge field, about 500 yards long, bordered completely by woods and pines. The stand we were hunting out of was something especially important to me. Uncle teddy, a very special person to all of us, had built this stand and hunted it every rifle season. He passed away in 2007, leaving us all very saddened. Teddy left the camp to his son, Kevin. Kevin Sykora is like a second father to me. We have always been extremely close and I enjoy every second I get with him. He put me in his father's stand, which meant the world to me. This was no doubt the best spot on the property for killing a nice buck.
To this day, I have not experienced weather as extreme as the weather was on this hunt. My dad and I are not ones to give up, usually sitting from daylight to dark every chance we get. Monday and Tuesday consisted of freezing rain, hail, snow, wind, and every form of weather one could imagine. We stuck it out and hunted all day both days, seeing some doe, and small buck. We had not seen anything big enough to take. Dad and I had to leave Wednesday, because my dad had work and I had school.Come Tuesday night I was pretty bummed out. My first year at deer camp and I was going to go home empty handed. My dad decided we could hunt for about three hours Wednesday morning. I knew I could handle some more harsh weather if it meant killing a buck. The snow whipped its way across the mountain top as we made our way into the woods Wednesday morning. I prayed over and over that I would just get a shot at a descent buck. I knew they were around. However they just were not showing themselves.
My dad looked at his watch and turned to me, "About 10 more minutes buddy, then we have to hit the road." I knew the hunt was over. My heart sank. Just as I started to pick up my pack and rifle I felt my dad nudge me. "Buck! Buck!" he whispered. I turned and saw a wide set of horns in the woods behind our box stand. The buck was no doubt on the move.
By now the buck was trotting out into the field, almost on a dead run. I picked up my .308 Remington and put it to my shoulder. Swinging my rifle out past the tree I got on the fast moving buck. The crosshairs settled on his heart, and I squeezed the trigger. The shot felt good and I was reassured by Dad yelling "the blood’s pouring out of him!" The buck piled up and I was overwhelmed by about twenty different emotions as I looked out at that wide rack lying out in the snow about 100 yards from the stand.
My dad picked up the radio and let out "the eagle has landed" to Kevin, my second cousin. To this day I still get chills thinking about that moment. I had just killed a gorgeous buck my first year of deer camp.
I saw Uncle Kevin (who was hunting about a half mile from us) sprinting through the field in front of us. I climbed down and ran about 200 yards up to him. His hug just about took me to the ground. We celebrated as we looked at the buck now at our feet. No one said anything, but we knew deep down that uncle teddy played a role in sending me that buck five minutes before we were to leave camp. As a young child I remembered sitting and talking to uncle teddy, cutting wood with him, shooting rifles up at his camp. I knew he would've loved to see me shoot a buck out of his old wooden box stand. But I also knew that he had watched it all unfold from his place up in heaven. There is no doubt in my mind that he smiled from ear to ear as he watched that mature whitetail hit the ground on that blistering cold morning in the mountains of beautiful Pennsylvania.