As I stalked former students and field crew members for their whereabouts and life happenings, I asked them to share their best, worst, or most memorable time in Penn’s woods. Here’s what they had to say about that!
April Sperfslage (Crew Leader 2015-2018)
Overall, I miss the team and life-long friends I found within the PGC. Also, all of the amazing property owners I worked with (truly–saints). Probably, just as equally, I miss studying Pennsylvania deer and becoming familiar with the background and activity patterns of many of the study deer. I remember the crazy, exciting, yet stressful adrenaline rush of rocket net captures, and then the overall feeling of success and contentment when each deer got up and left our capture sites. I loved sitting in the blinds and observing deer, even if they thwarted our capture attempts over and over again.
I DO NOT miss the late nights, minimal sleep I maintained during capture seasons, and during some seasons, the feeling of what seemed like I was working 24/7 and sometimes not wanting to stop working. I have been able to grow as an individual, personally and professionally, with all the free time I have at home now! Say what!?
Dr. Danielle Begley-Miller (Graduate Student)
My best memory in the woods was the time me and my field technician gorged ourselves on black raspberries for two straight days at one of the best places in Rothrock state forest. I have never been so fat or happy as I was for those two days despite having to walk through those brambles.
Worst memory? Or perhaps the funniest? Gosh I have a lot…
There was the time I was in Bald Eagle near Red Ridge. Our usual day involved hiking to the vegetation survey plot, dropping our extra gear, getting a few subplots sampled, and then breaking for lunch. We had been surveying for about an hour when I returned to the bag spot to find my entire lunch devoured by a bear. I was only 120 feet away at the time and never even heard a sound. We gathered up what was left (my pyrex and hummus were saved!), looked around a bit, didn’t see the bear, and figured it got what it wanted and was long gone. After taking a quick lunch/snack break, we proceeded to walk on the south side of the plot through the dense mountain laurel to continue surveying, only to find the bear about 100 yards away. We weren’t about to tempt fate twice, so we packed up and came back a few weeks later to finish up.
Or there was the time I got the truck stuck in a creek without cell service. A stranger with a dog was walking down the narrow road. In my attempt to give them a wide birth, the road bank gave way and the truck got stuck (4WD and the stranger were no help). After 8+ hours in the field, we bushwacked for over a mile up the steepest ridge to find cell service. We got out one text message, and then made our way back down so Duane could tow us out. It was after 9pm by the time he got there (a 14-hour day for us). He brought Gatorade and pizza. It was the best pizza I had ever tasted.
Hannah White (Crew Leader 2015-2017)
There are almost too many funny stories to even begin to mention (and some I probably shouldn’t ;-).
Hiking to the top of our aptly dubbed “Mount Everest” to investigate a mort – it seems deer always died in the most inconvenient of places (perhaps their last ditch effort at revenge).
Patrick getting trampled by our first monster buck in a Clover trap while we watched in horror, “…I feel like we should do something?” We learned to henceforth have a backup tackler on-deck.
Using our code word for fawn over the truck-to-truck radio: “Houston, we got a CORN DOG!”
Forging our way through briar patches from hell in search of deer poop… I think we can all agree Poo Patrol is undoubtedly the most noble (and glamorous) of scientific endeavors.
As someone who had never been in a deer stand before, I will never forget my first time firing a rocket-net, the sound of my heart beating out of my chest (so loudly I thought for sure the deer could hear it too) as I watched a group of deer come out of the woods just before dusk, make their way onto the bait, heads down, and then KA-BOOM! On Valentine’s Day of all days. Goes to show, deer can be sweet too.
And who could forget our endless saga of truck repairs? Be it corn in the engine from pesky mice hoarding our bait, or the back window of the truck cap hanging on by a thread. At one point, in a series of unfortunate events, we were down 2 (of only 3) trucks, and ended up with all 5 of us, plus a volunteer (that’s 6 grown adults) packed into one truck checking traplines. Quality bonding time right there, folks.
Wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
[To read about Hannah’s adventures as a crew leader, go back to the very first Deer Crew Diary! She wrote 3 years worth.]
Maureen Kinlan (Crew Leader 2017)
By far what I miss most about working for the PA Game Commission is how much fun we all had catching and collaring fawns. Although, it is a close tie because I also absolutely loved and really miss helping catch and process black bears. I was fortunate to really enjoy working with everyone on the crew and I absolutely loved the study area. Such an absolutely stunning place to work. Another great memory was when I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to assist with collaring a bull elk. Best day ever.
Tony Del Valle (Crew Member 2016-2017)
I look back fondly on a lot of the memories made while working in PA. Trapping deer was a rewarding experience, but it also a tiring one (the combo of harsh weather, long hours, and restraining deer takes its toll after a while!). I think my favorite experience were opening traps on Sundays. This was in general a more laid back task and it allowed ample time for taking in the beauty of the Susquehannock.