As I watched the rain during the final hours of firearms deer season last weekend, I reflected on another different, yet meaningful, chapter of 2020.

For a bit of a backstory, I arrived in DuBois this summer, new to the paper and area – as Courier Express editor and Clearfield County resident. However, a plot of land near Sykesville has been in the Destefan family name well before yours truly was born. So I’ve spent many weekends “heading north” prior to my career move landing me 15 minutes from the “farm.”

Rifle season has always been a big part of our year, making the necessary arrangements to take off work and be able to hunt at least a handful of days. This year, specifically for me, that changed.

I spent more time in the woods during the last few weeks than I had the previous three seasons combined, simply a perk of relocating to the once distant neighborhood. This foreseen increase in a tradition I enjoy indeed played a very slight role in my decision to join this team.

Every weekend of late, in between work, I went over to scout things out for myself while also hoping to benefit my father, grandfather and close family friend – our hunting quartet. Those hunting partners still face the three-plus hour journey “up state,” so it is kind of on me to keep an eye on things now.

Personally, hunting season has always been about getting away from it all, sitting in a tree stand with no distractions and even fewer worries. If a shooter buck walks by, obviously that’s a bonus. If not, that’s fine as well.

Collectively, we haven’t bothered with doe tags for years. So it’s been boom or bust in terms of actually harvesting a buck that meets antler-restriction standards. Still, we’ve occasionally been lucky with our success, including the first morning this season when my dad dropped a beautifully matched 8-point just after daybreak.

I was probably happier for him than if I had gotten one.

At least this season I can confidently say it wasn’t for a lack of effort on my part. The right one just didn’t show up. And I’m OK with that.

It gives me a sense of pride being able to assert myself into the efforts on my family’s land, taking on a much greater role than I ever have before. From mowing in the summer to checking heaters in the winter, this is now part of who I am.

And as the skies opened up last Saturday, that’s what I thought about. How this whole thing has come full circle, with me suddenly living next door to where my grandfather was raised.

Sidenote: We’re smart enough to build stands that have a roof, so getting soaked did not have to be at the forefront of my wandering mind.

Rather I reflected on still having the chance to hunt with that same grandfather who is now pushing 80, although we tried to maintain our distance in this lovely COVID-19 world.

I thought about how excited my dad gets annually on the first day, only to spend all of 30 minutes in the field before he was posting trophy pics on Facebook (he’s worse than a teenager with his phone).

I thought about how my mother takes off work to come along and act as camp cook for much of the first week, making sure we all have a hot meal after a long day in the trees.

I thought about our family friend (more like an uncle) who came back up for the last weekend, in part because he enjoys my company – even though he might not admit it.

While in the middle of these thoughts, I was communicating with my wife who was trying to plan what to make for dinner for the three of us who were still hunting the last day. She, too, is eagerly becoming part of the equation now that we’re the “locals.”

And, perhaps most meaningful, I thought about how all that surrounds hunting season for my family brought me a sense of comfort knowing that I made the right decision to call this area my home.

The Destefan name already had roots here. The last few weeks encouraged me to keep planting them.

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Ben Destefan is the editor of The Courier Express

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