For the last five years, I have gone to Camp Babylon in Potter County on the Sunday before the first day of the regular firearm season (buck season). Each year I question why I'm leaving an area that has more deer than where I'm going.
While growing up, the week spent at deer camp in Potter County with my family was a very special time. Perhaps my going to Camp Babylon is a way to relive those camp weeks of my youth; however, camp life as I remember has changed somewhat.
As I looked at pictures hanging on the walls of Camp Babylon, I noticed that camp life also has changed there. The hunting clothes that the hunters wear today are much different than those of the earlier hunters.
In 1925, Woolrich introduced the classic deep-cherry-red wool hunting coat that has been worn throughout the years by many Pennsylvania hunters. When this coat was worn with a matching pair of pants, the outfit soon became known as the "Pennsylvania tuxedo."
Back then, red was considered the safest color to wear; however, today, hunters are required by law to wear fluorescent orange, which now is considered the safest color.
Today, hunters are wearing lighter materials, such as Gore-Tex, Thinsulate (both made by Woolrich) and other brands.
The type of footwear worn by hunters has drastically changed. In earlier times, a hunter was lucky if he or she had a pair of felt liners that went inside either a pair of rubber-buckled boots or high-laced shoes; however, most hunters simply wore extra socks to ward off the cold. Today, insulated shoes and rubber boots cover hunters' feet.
The guns being carried now also are different. When I was young, the camp's gun racks were filled with 32- or 30/30-caliber lever action rifles and even some shotguns, which required the hunter to carry slug ammunition. Today, the gun racks at camps are loaded with calibers such as .3006, .308 and others that are mostly bolt-action rifles.
The number of hunters attending camps has changed, too. In earlier years, larger groups of hunters went to camp, with most staying for the first week of buck season. Today, this number has dropped drastically, and many hunters stay for only one or two days. Of the 20 hunters who belong to Camp Babylon, only five stayed to hunt.
At camp, when I was a young hunter, every evening after supper was eaten and the dishes were washed, we gathered at the table again; however, this time it was for playing hands of penny-ante poker, with small limits on the amount of money one could bet.
At Babylon, only one member, Bob Winters, played games of solitaire.
The type of hunting also has changed. In earlier times, the camp put on drives for deer. Hunters also stood on watch until they became so cold they had to move to keep warm. Although hunters still sit on watch, it could be from either a tree stand or from a hut that could contain a small heater.
However, not all things at camp have changed. Hunters still eat like kings when at deer camp, with the quality and quantity of food not changing. The fresh air and exercise from climbing up the mountainside gives hunters an appetite to consume more than their usual amount of food.
Pictures of hunters and camp members still deck the walls of Camp Babylon. If someone mentions an old member who has passed away, a story will be told about his hunting escapades. Storytelling has not changed at camp, and in the evenings, many stories are relived. Believe me when I say fishermen are not the only ones who stretch the truth.
Although things do change through the years, many hunters still look forward to going to deer camp. I am delighted to say that I have been asked to join Camp Babylon, and I readily accepted.
The history of Camp Babylon is quite colorful. The name Babylon is Greek and means the gate of the gods; however, in the Bible, it is signified as a place of luxury and corruption.
Members of the camp are proud of their heritage. Philip Bower - although no relation, I call him "dad" when we are at camp - is the oldest member. He is the third generation of his family to belong to the camp, with his grandfather being one who helped to organize it.
Bob Winters is the present president of the camp.
One of the biggest changes is that Camp Babylon has done away with their "Feel Better Inn," actually an outdoor privy. A modern facility has been installed inside the camp.
Although things do change at deer camp and probably will continue to change, being part of a group of Pennsylvania deer hunters and the camaraderie that occurs at deer camp never will change.
Bower retired after 34 years as a wildlife conservation officer for the state Game Commission. He has published several books about his experiences. Questions and comments may be sent to him at 153 Redington Ave., Troy PA 16947.