The first paragraph of a new chapter is neither here nor there. In the time between where I’ve been to where I’m going, there is much anticipation of what the future holds. I’d like to say that I’m used to changing things up every several months; the truth is, I know very little going into the next gig. Here I go again!

I left later than expected. As a result of my halfhearted planning, I rushed around the house looking for those odds and ends that I forgot. Eight o’clock was the time that I wanted to leave but it really didn’t matter. Most of the stuff that I would need for the next several months was already packed in my SUV and all I had to do was settle in when I got there. However, the technicalities and logistics weren’t what was on my mind; instead, it was the anticipation of something vaguely familiar. I pulled out of my driveway that morning, beginning a new chapter.

The drive to Martinsburg is about three hours and I anticipated a respite in State College. My mind wandered while traveling that familiar route. This evening, I will rest my head at an old farmhouse — a place that I have only seen in pictures. In time, the house will become a home. By sometime in May, I will be sad to leave. I thought of the three women who will be my housemates and coworkers. Right now, we only know each other through work related texts and emails. As the days pass, friendships will grow. We will share stories and laughter. Strangers now, one day, it will be difficult to part ways. Tomorrow, I will be starting a new job and meet the other two members of my crew. We will have orientation and training. In the coming weeks, I will be in a blind for the first time, anticipating the arrival of deer on our bait. The net will drop and we will exit our cloak as planned. Anxious and excited, we will run towards the captured animals. I will be tackling a live deer for the first time! This will run through my head many times and I still won’t know what to expect. It is all a vague picture in my mind.

That evening, I arrived at the farmhouse. It’s a nice place, nicer than my previous postings. My housemates, Helen, Anna, and Nicole, are very friendly and helped me move my stuff inside. I began settling in and we got to know each other over conversation. I discovered that Helen graduated from Penn State and this is her first wildlife job. We talked much of our undergrad experiences. Anna spent last summer in Yellowstone working with birds. We compared stories and I learned that she knows Evan, one of the guys from the dorm in Mammoth. Nicole has an interesting sense of humor and has a plethora of stories. I’m more inclined to enjoy her taste in movies and music. The four of us have next to no deer experience between us. This season should prove to be a unique learning experience for us all. From the first few hours, I knew that we would become friends.

The next morning brought the assemblage of our crew. We met up with Levi, our crew leader, and Jessie, the other member of our crew who is living outside of the study area. Levi and I shared some of the same undergrad experiences together and we graduated at the same time. I fondly remember him from a few of my classes and I recall seeing him in the state forests while I was sampling vegetation for the Deer-Forest Study. It was a pleasure to be reacquainted and we already talked about doing some fishing once the weather warms. Jessie comes from the Pacific northwest and has had a variety of interesting wildlife jobs. For instance, she volunteered with the wolf program in Yellowstone and spent some time in Alaska. Our crew was now together.

Over the last couple of weeks, I had the opportunity to take a step back an observe the team dynamic. We engaged in training, gear acquisition, and exploration of our study area. Thus far, we are working well together and bonds are forming. We seem to be the more lively bunch of all the crews. Despite the challenges that we face in our study area this season (more on that later), I anticipate an enjoyable and successful trapping season!

Why Deer?

I often said I’m not interested in working with deer. This winter however, I find myself working for the Pennsylvania Game Commission as a Deer Biologist Aid. It goes to show that you never know where you will end up. So, why did I take a job working with deer? Continue reading “Why Deer?”