Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.
The green foothills gradually gave way to the heavy forests of the Allegheny Mountains as I wound my way along Pennsylvania Highway 6 towards the small town of Coudersport. The small hamlet is deep in the heart of the mountains and home to the Eastern Traditional Archery Rendezvous which was to be my stop for the next four days. After the long drive, I unpacked, met my camping companions for the week and hit the rack.
Sleep came easy.
The next morning, I drove along a sweeping downhill on the highway to my destination. As I dropped down the mountain, fog lifted from the valley below and mixed with the smoke of hundreds of campfires creating a syrupy thing haze floating through the air.
I was taken with how much timber was in this part of the country. These were true forests, not the wooded hills and hollers from Southern Indiana that I’m used too. No, these were large tracts of rugged country, thousands upon thousands of acres of rolling mountains, smoothed over from eons of wind and water erosion, covered in a mix of hardwoods and evergreens. Huge hemlocks and pines added their scent to the cool high country air.
The area could’ve easily been a scene from the Last of the Mohicans.
Once at the venue, I set up my display booth, settled in and waited for the crowds to appear.
My wait wasn’t long and soon, hundreds of other traditional bowhunting enthusiasts were pouring into the vendor tent. I’d been at this game long enough that I recognized several of the faces in the crowd and knew many folks, but this was a different spot for me and not many mid-westerners were in the crowd. This group of bowhunters and shooters were mainly East coasters with a few Mainers and up state New Yorkers thrown in for good measure.
I spent the rest of the morning and the afternoon greeting the passersby and chatting with the folks that stopped by my booth to see what the Compton Traditional Bowhunters were all about. I met some great people, but the stereotype of East coast folks is fairly spot on. They are a busy lot, always on the move, all business. There wasn’t a lot of hanging around and shooting the bull with most of them. It was more about getting down to brass tacks.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that they were on board with my message of preserving and promoting traditional bowhunting or they weren’t interested in joining my organization.
The rest of the week went about the same.
Each morning, like the flood gates had been opened, shoppers, bowhunters and some gawkers would shuffle up and down the vendor aisles by the hundreds -each bowyer, arrow smith, crafter or hunting organization all vying for their dollars and time.
By my fourth day, I can’t count the times I’d said “Hi, how’s it going?” or “How are ya doing?” in my distinctly Switzerland County/SE Indiana accent.
But, by the end of the event, I’d had a chance to get my groups message out there to a captive audience, sign up several new members, see a part of the country I’d never traveled too before and make some new friends in the process. And in the end, isn’t that’s what it’s really all about while were here? Meeting new people, sharing with each other and experiencing different things?
I’m already looking forward to next year’s event in the Alleghenies, but I’ll have to brush up on my East coast slang beforehand.
– David Hewitt