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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-13-2017, 08:30 PM Thread Starter
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Providence on Camp Mountain

I posted this a long time ago. Another thread inspired me to edit a bit and re-post. Hope someone enjoys it.


Providence on Camp Mountain
By S. Musser

It had been a cold night, one of those clear, cold, Sullivan County nights where one could look up and see the belt of the Milky Way glowing in the night sky and feel the sting of the crisp air like a sharp knife drawn across the skin. A light cover of snow had fallen, the second snow of the season, the first having melted in all but the sheltered places, on the north slopes and under the Hemlock thickets.

Dawn was a just promise as he walked slowly out the ridge road, no need to hurry, there was plenty of time. He drank in the cold, crisp mountain air, drawing it deeply into his lungs, and he felt as though he had come home. Home to a place not where his body lived but where his soul resided, home to a place that existed most of the year only in his imagination, in his memory and in his spirit. But now home, not only in spirit, but in body; home to the mountains, home to the hunting grounds. He would sit in his buddy’s old stand this morning, a mile and a half walk from the gate, on the crest of the steep north side. The stand had never been that productive, and his friend had abandoned it in recent years. But the view was spectacular, overlooking the valley it was a great place to sit, to think, to not think, and to listen to the church bells ringing at precisely nine o’clock every Saturday morning, echoing up the valley from Hillsgrove. He loved sitting in the cold, alone, at the edge of the hemlocks, listening to the church bells.


He arrived at the stand as dark gave way to dawn, and settling in, his mind wondered. It had been a good season. He had taken a buck and a doe near his home in archery season, as well as several deer out of state, but that all seemed so long ago. Now, on the last day of the firearms season, he had in his position one last tag, an antlerless tag, but he cared little if he would fill it, for while he enjoyed the good hunting he had in other places, this place was special, this is where it had all begun.

He had come to this place for the first time at the age of eight, to his family’s friend’s hunting cabin. He remembered that the very words, “Hunting Cabin”, had sounded magical, and upon first laying eyes on the old, 19th century place, with it’s chestnut shingle siding, coal oil lamps and huge, cheese cloth covered kitchen table, it was everything he had dreamed it would be. From that moment on, he lived for the pilgrimages that his family made with their friends each year to the old camp… the first day of trout season, the opening weekend of squirrel and grouse season and the occasional winter trip when the snow lay deep on the ground. He loved to hear the tales of the great hunters who had trod these mountains, faceless names, the sound of the names conjuring up day dreams of great backwoodsmen and the great bucks they must have slain. He learned the language of the mountains as well, place names so important to those who navigated these mountains, names like Round Top, Camp Mountain, Gooseberry Hill, George Howard’s, The Beach, The Fields, The Burn, and The point. While he enjoyed the folded Appalachian ridges of his central Pennsylvania home, these were “The Endless Mountains”; great flat topped mountains, remnants of an ancient eroded plane, carved over the eons by countless crystal streams, streams where he had caught his first trout. There were no posters here, only miles of open public land where a man could hunt all day, never run out of ground, and see few, if any, hunters. He never hunted the early part of the season here, only the last week, when few others were about, and he was glad of it; it was nice to always think of this place as it must once have been, before men spoiled the ancient wilderness. And there was snow... at home it was the exception to hunt deer in the snow but here in the north woods it was common, deer should be hunted in the snow, hunted in the snow as it had always been.


……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..


Just a few moons ago, the promise of such an incredible dawn would have sent shots of adrenaline through his body and awakened instincts as old as the mountains, but on this morning he lie in his bed awaiting the rise of the sun; its warm rays would sooth his body and provide some relief. His eight point antlers had been proud symbols of his maleness but now they were in shambles, one side broken off just above the skull, the remaining side with several broken points. It was his second season as an adult and he had been in the best condition of his short life. He had chased does and had fought bucks and had won the right to breed; he had felt victory, and had felt defeat, but now he felt only fatigue and pain. It had been twelve moons since the man creatures had come; come making their thunderous noise, fouling the air with their disgusting smell, and his world had been torn apart. He vaguely recalled a time, long ago, when the man things had come and he had escaped, escaped to the steep side of the mountain and hid in the thickets, but this time there had been no escape; he had made it to cover, sure, but not before something had ripped through his leg, followed by the terrible noise, and now the leg hung useless by a tread of skin, dragging on the ground as he walked. Reluctant to move and feeling ill, he had fed very little and had remained in his bed as much as possible for several moons.

He had lain well past daylight and now he was hungry… even so, he could not force himself to rise from his bed and browse. At one point he had smelled the man creatures, not like before, coming from everywhere, but for just a few moments. He had remained motionless in his bed and the men had moved on. Now the sun felt good, he would remain for a while.


…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

He had sat patiently for several hours and had not seen very much, just a few squirrels and birds. But he had thought… and had not thought… and had heard the bells… and that was enough. Now the chill of the morning penetrated his clothes and he shivered. Perhaps he would still-hunt the rest of the morning, ever so slowly, hugging closely to the break where the top of the mountain met the steep north ridge, keeping in the shadows… still-hunt, out to the point, where as a younger man he would have been posted by first light. He loved the point, and the benches along the south side above Huckle Run, but now, in his fifties, it was a chore to get out there by first light. Today he would patiently work his way out there, slowly, there was plenty of time. He eased ahead, step by step, a few yards at a time and hadn’t covered much ground when he came to a place he knew well, a place where the ridge was broken by a series of small mounds varying in height from two to five feet. He had always been puzzled by these mounds. Were they remnants of ant hills? Or saw dust piles? Or perhaps just great old chestnut snags that had rotted back to soil?

One moment there had been nothing, nothing but trees and the ground white with snow, then, as he stepped round one of the mounds, into his vision came the sight of a bedded deer not fifteen yards away. As his rifle rose to his shoulder in a slow, fluid motion, the deer snapped its head around. He stared into the bucks wild eyes. He noticed the rack, the left side broken off near the base, maybe an inch or two long, the remaining antler having three broken tines, broken but still legal; the deer was safe though, he had no buck tag. The buck stared at him, and he at the buck, and he knew that at any moment the buck would explode out of its bed… explode out, as they always do, as soon as it realized what it was looking at; explode out of its bed, and leap, and run, and it would be gone… but it did not move. It seemed an eternity, he and the buck locked together in amazed stares, an eternity frozen in the cold mountain air, an eternity frozen in a moment in time.



……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

One moment there had been nothing, nothing but trees and the ground white with snow, then, in his peripheral vision he noticed a movement and snapped his head around toward the cause. He could make out the shape of something there; was it really there? With a terrifying realization, he noticed the eyes; the thing was alive and he knew it was a man thing. He stared into the hunters wild eyes. He wanted to explode out of his bed… explode out, as he always had done, as soon as he realized what he was looking at; explode out of his bed, and leap, and run, and be gone, but he could not move, his weakened body would not respond. It seemed an eternity, he and the hunter locked together in amazed stares, an eternity frozen in the cold mountain air, an eternity frozen in a moment in time. He made several attempts to stand, and on the third attempt he stood, and slowly limped away until the thing was out of his vision. It did not follow.



………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

At last he decided to take a step and see what the buck would do. As he did, the buck did not explode from its bed but instead made several attempts to stand. On the third attempt it stood, and limped slowly away until it was out of his vision. Only when the deer was gone did it register with him that the buck was hurt. He looked at the bucks trail in the snow, three distinct tracks and a drag mark; the buck was dragging a leg. The realization of the bucks’ condition sickened him and he wished he had fired, fired and killed the buck and ended its misery. But he had not fired; by the time he had known, it had been too late, and anyway, he had done the right thing, at least the legal thing, he had no tag. He was tempted to follow as he studied the bucks trail, but there was no blood, the injury was not new. Filled with pity for the buck, he was tempted, but he did not follow, he had no tag.


……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Remaining on the mountain top flat, he had moved south for several hundred yards, crossing the main access road, then along an old skid trail, barely discernible, not much more than a game trail now which few hunters would tend to notice. He had gone as far as he could comfortably manage as he slowly worked his way to a place he knew well. Through the place a small brook ran. Headed by a clear spring the run seldom froze, providing reliable drinking water, and in it, in the warmth of the winter sun, watercress grew. The spring was nestled in a small grove of young hemlocks, keeping the place cool through mid-day and there were several red oaks scattered about; it was a good place for a deer to rest and hide. He felt safe and often bedded here. He nibbled some watercress, drank the cool water, and settled in to rest once more.


…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..


He continued to still-hunt his way east along the edge of the steep, it was late morning when he came upon the old cherry flat. The flat had once been magnificent, with towering black cherries that had drawn turkeys like a magnet in the fall, but being cut some years ago and having not regenerated, it was now covered in ferns. The flat dropped away gently to the south, down to the benches along Huckle Run. He had cut little deer sign, just three sets of tracks. Moving together, a doe and her fawns had come off the top and headed down over the steep north side. While the tracks had been fresh in the new fallen snow, he had not followed and had kidded himself about getting old. Just past the flat was a small rise, an outcropping of rock that marked the start of the point. Early in the season this rise was a good place to post, but now he only paused, continuing his still-hunt to the end of the point. Arriving there, he noticed a stand that a hunter had constructed by piling some rocks in the shadows under some hemlocks. It was quite the stand, almost a shooting bench, with walls several feet high on three sides and a rock pedestal for a seat. He chuckled at the thought of someone going to so much trouble to construct such an elaborate stand, and wondered if its builder had spent more time fussing with his stand than watching for deer. His question was quickly answered by the sight of a buck’s scrotum hanging neatly in a bush near the stand, a common superstitious practice among successful buck hunters. “Good for him” he thought; it would have required a good deal of effort to build such a stand and get out there by first light, and an even greater effort to drag a buck three miles back to the parking lot… perhaps the effort of someone much like himself in his younger years. The stand commanded a view of a small bench, formed as the old cherry flat tapered around the higher ground of the point, the steep north side falling away below it. He settled into the comfort of the stand to rest awhile, and his mind drifted back to thoughts of the wounded buck.


It was noon now, the sun high, and he decided to move on. Leaving the point and heading west, he abandoned the cautiousness of his morning effort and walked leisurely out to the main trail. As he came to the place where the trail widened to form the main PGC access road, he noticed that three hunters had walked the road in the morning, two adults and a child, but it did not appear that they had left the road. Coming to an old clear cut that paralleled the road, he cut a large, single deer track coming off the steep side and heading south through the cut. He figured it for the track of a buck, but as it was as good a route as any, he followed the track into the cut.


Slowly, sneaking and peaking, he followed the track for an hour, the deer having wound its way south through the cut… now keeping to an old skid trail, now through the brush, then back to a skid trail again... now along the side of the swamp on the lower end of the cut, then down through the basin. He continued following the buck track until he could look down on Huckle Run, where he abandoned it. Turning back to the north, he would work his way along the west side of the basin up past the remnants of the old saw mill, the elevation giving him a good view of the entire basin and the west edge of the swamp. He would take his time and take the edge of the basin back to the top and on to the north side, where he would spend the last hour or so of the season back at his buddy’s old stand. All the while he could not shake thoughts of his encounter with the buck that morning. He wished the buck well, hoping he would make it through the harsh north woods winter, but he doubted it, and it ate at him.


Arriving back at the stand about three o’clock, he sat, trying not to think. It was hard not to think. Earlier in the season it was not so hard… over the years he had taught himself not to think while on stand, or perhaps more correctly, to not think, to just concentrate, watching the “holes” for the slightest movement, anything out of place. He had taught himself to not think, but it had not been easy, and now he found it impossible. He thought about not thinking, and he thought about the buck. He wished he had followed, wished he had followed and killed the buck, putting it out of its misery. “To ---- with the law, it’s not nature’s law”, he thought… and he wished… and then… it was time to go. Only forty five minutes of legal shooting light remained and at first he thought he might still-hunt back toward the truck, working the ridge back to the west, but decided against it. Instead, he would work his way back on the main access road and by the time he got back to the truck it would be dark.


Walking along the road, he hadn’t covered much ground when he came to a place he had never noticed. Across from the road was an old skid trail, barely discernible, not much more than a game trail now which few hunters would tend to notice. He slowly sneaked along the skid trail when he came upon a place. Through the place a small brook ran. Headed by a clear spring, the run seldom froze, providing reliable drinking water, and in it, in the warmth of the winter sun, watercress grew. The spring was nestled in a small grove of young hemlocks, keeping the place cool through mid-day, and there were several red oaks scattered about; it was a good place for a deer to rest and hide. He eased along the brook, peering into a little grove of hemlocks.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….


He had lain by the spring all afternoon. The rest, the feed, and the fresh, clear water had invigorated him; the sparse warmth of the day soothing his pain. It was getting toward evening and the shadows were growing long. He stood, and stretched, and fed.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

One moment there had been nothing, nothing but trees and the ground white with snow, then, as he peered into the hemlocks, into his vision came the sight of a standing deer, not forty yards away. He knelt as his rifle rose to his shoulder in a slow, fluid motion, the deer snapping its head around toward the motion. He noticed it had no rack, it was a doe and he had a tag. Focusing his vision through the scope, he knew that at any moment the deer would explode, explode out, as they always do, as soon as it realized what it was looking at… explode out, and leap, and run, and it would be gone… but it did not move. It seemed an eternity, an eternity frozen in the cold mountain air, an eternity frozen in a moment in time. He hesitated for a moment; it would be a long drag, it would soon be dark... but he squeezed the trigger, saw the blinding flash through the scope, then, coming out of recoil, saw the deer, down.


……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… …..


One moment there had been nothing, nothing but trees and the ground white with snow, then, in his peripheral vision he had noticed a movement and snapped his head around toward the cause. He could make out the shape of something there; was it really there? He saw a blinding flash and felt a powerful blow… and then there was eternity, frozen in the cold mountain air, eternity, frozen in a moment in time. He did not hurry. Now, there was plenty of time.


……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… ……


Slowly, he approached the deer like he always did, from behind, as he had taught himself, so as not to spook the deer if it was not done, but the deer was done, he could see that now. He sat on a log ten yards behind the deer, to fill out his tag, as he always did, and he thought to himself that it was a real nice doe, a big doe. After completing his tag he walked towards the deer, but was shocked as he noticed the scrotum. Lifting its head, he saw that the buck had one antler, broken off just above the base, maybe an inch or two long, the other antler freshly shed, the pedicle still bloody. It could not be... but it had to be...


Turning the buck over, the broken hind leg flopped, as lifeless as the buck; hanging by a thread... the wound had begun to heal. He did not think as he tagged and dressed the buck. He did not hurry. Now, there was plenty of time.
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Last edited by loridr; 12-16-2017 at 02:58 PM.
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-13-2017, 10:23 PM
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What an awesome story!!! I love it! Our camp was built in 1982 by my father and uncles. They were diehard hillsgrove hunters, before they were able to purchase property, all 8 of them used to make the 3 and a half hour drive up and sleep in a van in the upper parking lot of camp mountain, they would sleep in that van for 3 or 4 days, hunting every legal minute! By the time I was old enough to go to the "hunting cabin" only 2 of my uncles and my father were still hunting camp mountain. Now it's down to just my dad and I. For the last 20 years, as my father and I hunt our way around the mountain for deer, turkey and small game, it seems like every spot has a special story about one of my uncles or a buddy of theirs that they brought along to hunt with, my dad loves re-telling the stories.
A lot of the spots mentioned, I am very familiar with. We regularly frequent the north side of the mountain due to our cabin being at the base, it makes for an easier drag out!
For the last few years, an older man named Skip has hunted off that rock pile stand out on the point, we often pass him in the darkness of the early morning as he slowly makes his way out there. It is now marked on our topo map as "skips spot"
3 years ago, I took the oldest of my 3 sons up for what has now become our annual small game opener squirrel hunt. This year was the first year my middle son was old enough to come along, and the weeks before, all the 2 of them could talk about was the "hunting cabin"
Thank you for sharing this story, it is beautifully written, and captures the spirit of hunting perfectly. My love for camp mountain runs deep, it nice to see that it is shared by others.
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-14-2017, 11:22 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks Tim. It is a true story.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-16-2017, 02:21 PM
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One for "Game News"
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-04-2018, 03:28 PM
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The name is recognizable ? Wasn't he a member here ? Possibly turned into a WCO......or "warden", now ?

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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-04-2018, 04:50 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fleroo View Post
The name is recognizable ? Wasn't he a member here ? Possibly turned into a WCO......or "warden", now ?
Who, S. Musser?

That would be me. Never turned WCO, almost turned Injun' once.

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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-09-2018, 10:38 AM
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Ahhhh, ok. I thought I remember the name "Sean Musser" ? as being a former member on here ? He then wet to Leffler, and became a warden.... I THINK in York ?


.....then again, I can be all wet too.

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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-17-2018, 08:22 PM
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very interesting story , thanks for sharing
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