Sweet Adversity: Coffee and Deer Unscripted
My good friend Mike Groman pulled into my driveway just before 6 a.m. and helped me load my gear into the bed of his truck. We decided to take one vehicle on this hunt because parking is limited at the spot we were headed to and riding together allows for a few minutes of final game planning. We knew there was a chance of light rain but were excited about hunting the beginning of the front as it started to push in. Being early October, we weren’t expecting a lot of buck activity, so the expectation was filling one of our doe tags if given the opportunity.
It was a short 15-minute drive to the property and we hurriedly gathered our gear and prepared to head into the woods. As we started down the trail, Mike whispered to me, “There’s something hanging off your bow.” We stopped to examine the situation and learned that the string from my limb-driven drop away rest had come out of its housing making it inoperable. Although frustrated with my own situation, I was hopeful that Mike might have some luck and I insisted that he hunt as planned while I sat in the truck and evaluated my predicament.
Had I driven, I would have had my tote bin that has some backup gear and tools in it for when these situations arise. If you’ve been reading my stories for any length of time, you know that I often find myself in these types of situations. Not having any tools and not knowing exactly how to fix the rest anyway, I searched YouTube for help and was able to find a few useful videos. While I was watching, I noticed a car pulling up to the maple syrup building at the end of the road. An elderly gentleman stepped out, opened the garage door, and proceeded to sit down at the table inside. “It’s Saturday morning coffee,” I muttered to myself with a hint of optimism. Getting together with a few neighbors for coffee and BS, especially on Saturday mornings, is a pretty regular practice at the building and I felt confident there would be a set of Allen wrenches in there I could borrow.
Alan Kinter making maple syrup in 1965.
The Kinter family has been making Andy’s Own Pure Maple Syrup as a hobby business since 1962. Before that, the family would boil kettles of maple sap over open fires to produce syrup for their own consumption. Alan’s son Andy has been involved with the business since he was old enough to carry buckets of sap and now, he enjoys tapping trees and making syrup with his five-year-old son, Eli, and wife Jenny. He indicated that they tap about 800 trees each year, which he described as being a small operation. They sell their syrup at local stores, at the farm, and through mail order. Browsing the company Facebook page I noted questions about shipping to the U.K. and Austria, so you could say that a small hobby started in the hills of Pennsylvania has become an international brand.
Alan has always been very generous with allowing hunting on his farm. I shot my first buck there when I was 14 years-old, and it’s where I made some of my best memories growing up as a young hunter. In addition to hunting, I also spent a few summers in my teenage years bailing hay and helping with other odd jobs at the farm. While bailing hay was a paying job, the best part was at the end of the day when Alan would take us to a local diner for burgers and milkshakes. No matter how tired you were, the thought of those milkshakes would get you through, and I think Alan knew it!
I walked into the building and shook hands with one of the “coffee club” regulars, Don Ruffner. Don is 87 years young and going strong. We talked a little hunting and tried to figure out how our families knew each other, which didn’t take long considering our homes were only separated by a few miles. Shortly thereafter Alan arrived and by then I had already forgotten my need for Allen wrenches. Through a few text messages with Mike I learned that there wasn’t a lot of deer movement. The coffee was too good, and the steady drizzle gave me a great excuse for sitting this hunt out. The reality was, sitting there with old friends catching up on neighborhood events was as good as hunting, and maybe even a little better on this morning.
The hunting has been slow, but scrapes are starting to show up with regularity.
For almost two hours we drank coffee and talked about everything from world politics to hunting and the local high school football team. I showed Alan photos of a nice bear and a fisher that I got on my trail cameras, and he gave me an update on what he had been seeing around the farm. As we talked, I thought about some of the legendary bucks in the area that were talked about over the years that undoubtedly got bigger the more they were discussed at the coffee club. It’s funny how very few of those bucks ever made it into the back of someone’s pickup truck, but that only served to keep the legends growing. “He’ll be bigger next year,” was a common sentiment.
As disappointed as I was to not be able to hunt, I’m glad things turned out that way. It was meant to. When you’re faced with adversity you have two choices. You can let it wear you down or you can find a way to turn it into a positive. If it wasn’t for a little adversity that morning, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to catch up with old friends and create even more great memories. It was an unscripted Coffee and Deer Show moment, and the type of gathering that was the inspiration for the show. Now, if I can talk them into moving coffee club back a couple of hours on Saturdays during hunting season, that would be fantastic!