Next week there will be just one thing on the minds of most of the state's big-game hunters.
When the firearms deer season kicks off just before sunrise on Monday, everybody wants to see one thing -- a giant buck walking toward their stand.
Of course, not every hunter will find success. Some may not even see a deer on opening day. That's the way it goes. But after more than 20 years in Penn's Woods, I've found an easy way to guarantee a successful hunt. And it's 100 percent legal.
When I was younger, I was a victim of "buck fever." I felt the bigger the deer I killed, the better hunter I'd appear to be. But the truth lied in a different direction.
I make the same preparations each year. I read the same amount of how-to articles. I shoot the same gun and the same ammo. But some years a big deer walks by, and other years I'm not so lucky.
Early on, it was frustrating. I wanted a trophy and I'd be miserable if I didn't get it. But then the wisdom of age started to play a role. I realized a truly successful hunt had nothing to do with a big buck. A great season had nothing to do with earning bragging rights -- nobody cares about them after the start of the next season, anyway.
In turns out, finding success during deer season is not hard at all. It's simple. It all boils down to one simple concept that is getting lost in our self-centered culture.
It's all about respect.
Think about it. If we have respect for the game we target, we appreciate whatever we see. We relish the idea of a reclusive buck wondering our way. But we also find awe in their ability to seemingly disappear when the pressure is on.
We should also respect the grand tradition of hunting. Few states have a richer hunting heritage than Pennsylvania. But it's all too easy to get caught in the trap of modern, commercialized hunting. We pick up a magazine brimming with must-haves that promise to do everything from eliminate our scent to lure the monster buck from the next county.
Getting a paw in that trap is a recipe for a letdown. All these must-have gadgets and potions do is divert our attention from what's important. If we focus on respecting our hunting heritage, we don't have to buy into the latest fads. What worked for grandpa still works today.
And finally, respect other hunters. By the end of next week, there will be stories of fights over deer, disputes over land, and even friends bickering with friends. That's not what the sport is about. We take to the woods so we can share tales with our buddies. We do it because we want to be part of a community, not because we want to compete with the guy next store.
Concentrate on respect this season and I guarantee you'll find success. You may not put a trophy eight-point on your wall, but I promise you'll put a trophy in your memory book.
That's something I can respect.
-- Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york dispatch.com.