Bloomsburg – Few things have kept John Flynn from hunting every year on the first Monday after Thanksgiving. As a matter fact, there have been only two times he has missed the start of the hunting season since he was 12 years old, and he does not envision himself missing another start to the season any time soon.
“I see myself hunting until I can longer walk the woods and fields. I have missed parts of two seasons since 1969 that I recall one for my hip replacement and one for my senior in college.”
Flynn, 50, grew up around hunters and knew from an early age that it was only a matter of time until he brought home his first deer. Even before he was old enough to hunt, he would go out with his father to gain an understanding of what it took to be a good hunter. He learned that bad weather was a mere obstacle and that patience is as important as having a good shot. Flynn, of nearby Espy, grew up in a community and culture that bred hunters.
“My father hunted as did my uncles. Since my father had been hunting for years, when I became old enough to hunt it was just a matter of course. In the basement of our house (my father) had set up a small shooting range. We would shoot .22-caliber rifles across the width of our basement at a target taped on a Sears catalog.”
Not only was hunting part of Flynn’s family culture, it was part of his community and school culture as well. Flynn recalls local schools closing the first day of buck season, the first Monday after Thanksgiving, because so many of the students would go out hunting. Not only that, everyone in the sixth grade of his middle school was required to take a hunting safety course, regardless of whether you hunted or planned on becoming a hunter. So while Flynn was learning to hunt with his father, his school took it upon itself to ensure that every student knew how to properly and safely handle a gun.
For the first seven years he hunted, Flynn would go with his father and his father’s friend to Benton area to hunt. Unfortunately, in 1976 Flynn’s father passed away, but he continued to hunt and had the memories to look back on.
“It always amazed me that he hunted since he only had one arm since the 1950’s when he lost his right arm in an industrial accident. All the guns I have now and hunt with were either his, souvenirs from World War II, or he gave them to me.”
After the passing of his father, Flynn kept the hunting tradition alive in his family. The people he went with and the places he hunted may have changed but he still continued to hunt like his father and uncles before him.
“(After my father died) I started going to my friend Mike Slusser’s farm, or rather his father’s farm. This is over between Mainville and Mifflinville. I still go there today for deer but go near my home, in Evansburg Park, for small game.”
“Now I usually go hunting with a friend I met after college and some of Mike’s nephews and great nephews. (Slusser’s father) does not go hunting anymore and Mike goes to a place he bought upstate.”
For many people the idea of waking up at 4:30 a.m. to go sit in the woods in the bitter chill of late November seems like a terrible idea. Not only that, but there is no guarantee that a hunter will shoot a deer, let alone have the opportunity to even get a round off.
“I have hunted when it was as cold as three degrees. You had to keep moving or you would really start to shiver. Other times it has been cold, rainy, and windy and it is impossible to keep dry and warm. And you have to try and keep your gun relatively dry in these conditions as well. However, even hunting when it is lousy weather or you are not seeing anything, is still better than being in work or school.”
For Flynn, there is still plenty to take away from a day of hunting even when he does not shoot a deer or the weather is downright miserable.
“The best part is the camaraderie of being with friends, the thrill of the hunt and of course if you’re lucky enough to shoot something. There used to be a group of us that hunted doe together. After the first few hours of more serious hunting, we would build a fire, cook hot dogs and potatoes and wait for the deer to run through the nearby field. On those days it was definitely more about the companionship than the hunt.”
For nearly 40 years Flynn has been keeping alive a tradition that grew out of a family and community that fostered hunting among its people. Even after all these years the idea of being outdoors and possibly catching something has drawn Flynn back to this long tradition. However, he is worried about the future of hunting in Pennsylvania. With less and less hunting ground and fewer people hunting, Flynn believes the day will come when hunting no longer takes place here in Pennsylvania. He does not believe he will see that happen in his lifetime and hopes his prediction is wrong. Until then however, Flynn plans on hunting until he is no longer physically able. For Flynn, the idea of keeping a long standing tradition alive is enough for him to wake up at 4:30 a.m. hoping for a chance at a deer.
“I enjoy the idea that (hunting) is a tradition and custom since before colonial times, and I have fond memories of (hunting) with my dad and I still enjoy hunting with my friends today.”