Written by Corey Piersol
SITKA Consumer Service Manager

Photos by Brett Seng

Seventy straight seasons at a Pennsylvania deer camp will teach you a thing or two about the intersections of hunting, life and family.

This year, I realized that in my time away from my family and childhood stomping grounds, I’d missed out on a rich tradition of hunting and camaraderie. My grandfather was turning 90, and I had never hunted with him. So last year when Allen “Paw Paw” Ruhl marked his 70th whitetail deer season, I had to be there for both milestones.

Autumn sets in on the Alleghany Mountains.

Paw Paw holding court, keeping everyone in camp entertained.

The cabin in the woods.

Waiting patiently in a remote corner of the woods.

After pursuing a buck for two days by myself, I had a revelation: “What am I doing here? I came home to hunt with my grandpa not chase this buck.” I immediately came down from the stand and hunted with him the rest of the trip.

Paw Paw fills up from the cold, clear spring at camp ahead of his hunt.

His wit honed like a broadhead as Paw Paw cracked wise and told tales of his years stalking those woods and pulling pranks on his unsuspecting family. Like the time he tossed a live possum he’d trapped onto the dinner table at mealtime just to watch the mayhem ensue.

After a scouting mission turned up a scrape line on the opposite side of the creek, we crossed to set up for an evening hunt. He figured the babbling from the creek would even the score; he couldn’t hear the deer, and the deer couldn’t hear him.

A clear blood trail emerges.

Notches on a buck's ear tell the tales of previous November battles.

It’s a short drag to the truck, but it’s a family effort with help from my cousin Mark, and all the more satisfying because of it.

Meat processing is also a family affair at the cabin. Here, Uncle Cork and his cousin Jeff assist with years of expertise skinning and butchering bucks at the cabin.

Setting the stage to butcher Mark's buck.

The family assembly line in full swing, bringing field to table within 72 hours. From left to right, my cousin Mark, his wife Rachel, myself and Paw Paw.

Partaking in a little rough scoring.

I learned a lot from him that week, not just about his life, but about the importance of family and the unique bonds created by hunting. Now, every season he's out in the woods, I want to be there.

With snack sticks freshly made, it’s time for a high-stakes family game of Bulls*#t.