Deer camp owner in Pocono Mountains introduces people to the outdoors
A Pennsylvania hunter is looking to grow the number of hunters in Pennsylvania by providing the deer camp experience.
Jonathan Wright, 35, owns Pocono Browns hunting camp in Pocono Summit, but lives in Randolph, New Jersey. He grew up in a hunting family and wants to share his passion for the outdoors with others and hopefully attract more people of color to enjoy the sport.
He said the camp is named after his grandfather’s last name, Brown, because his grandfather introduced him to hunting at a young age in Virginia. Pocono Browns has a ring to it sort of like the name Churchill Downs does with horse racing fans, Wright said.
The camp is located near State Game Lands 127 and other game lands, giving visitors the opportunity to literally explore thousands of acres of woodlands.
Wright called them “magnificent game lands, good topography, great fields, streams; it’s tough to beat.”
He prefers hunting in Pennsylvania over his home state of New Jersey. He said the road signs as you enter the commonwealth say, “Pursue your happiness,” and he tells his wife this is where they find it.
Wright learned to hunt at about age 16 and said earlier he would “plink around with a .22” with his uncles. When he was about 24 or 25, his boss in Michigan asked if he wanted to go to deer camp. “It lit a fire under me. ... I haven’t look back yet,” he said about looking forward to that trip each year.
This year alone, Wright has harvested five deer with a compound bow, including several bucks, between the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and Michigan. He also bagged a 403-pound fully dressed bear in Pennsylvania with his crossbow. “He was a monster,” Wright said.
Earlier in the year, he saw a big bear in the area two different times. On one occasion in that woods, the bear looked like a “big black Suburban that’s moving,” he said with a laugh.
“This is the first year that I actually told people, ‘I’m going bear hunting.’” He said he went to his cabin alone with his dog and made a game plan to find a bear. He prefers archery hunting from the ground versus being in a tree stand because he said it’s the ultimate experience to be eye-to-eye with animals within archery range.
While sitting along a trail, he remembers seeing the bear come his way. “He had that old bear swagger,” he explained about the animal making its way to about 18 yards of where he was sitting. “He just had that attitude about him.”
Wright made a good shot, and the bear collapsed about 30 yards away from the shot area. “It was nerve wracking after the fact,” he said.
He said sometimes he gets buck fever. But with the the size of the bear he was able to maintain his composure. After the shot, “I had that adrenaline type of panic attack,” he said about having to sit for a little bit to reflect and regroup.
He’s having a half-bear mount made from the animal to remember the hunt and to “pay it justice.”
It wasn’t the first time he encountered a bear while archery hunting from the ground. He said one day in New Jersey four bears walked past him about 25 yards, and it wasn’t long before two bucks walked through. He was able to get one of the deer. “It was intense,” he said about the rare encounter. “It was the most incredible hunt I ever had.”
Now he looks forward to deer hunting and wants others to become aware of the peace and fulfillment you can have by spending time in nature. “It starts by giving people access to that deer camp experience. A lot of people don’t have invitations to deer camps.” In the past, hunters hunt with who they know, and it can be a challenge to become part of a camp.
About a year ago, he started offering to provide hunting camp experiences for people at his cabin.
People tell him, “I’ve always wanted to join a deer camp,'” and, “I give them that. And then on top of that, I’m pretty keen on giving folks of color that opportunity also. We get a lot of black archers.”
He said many he has spoken to have never had the deer camp experience, and this year one of his camps in November was a 99% Black deer camp. “One guy called it magical,” about always wanting to be around this many hunters of color. “It was a cool experience.”
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Wright said he wants to make his camp enjoyable for all visitors, including people of color. “I do want to make it comfortable for people, particularly Blacks, to come hunt with somebody that kind of looks like you.”
Wright aims to create a disarming atmosphere that provides an overwhelming sense of comfort to those wanting to learn about the outdoors. “I want to see young kids and their dads getting out there; I don’t care what color you are – just keeping that tradition alive,” he said.
In addition to creating camaraderie and fellowship around a camping experience, he teaches people who want to hunt to look for sign for the animals such as searching for scat, trails and deer rubs on trees to try to pattern the deer. He owns trail cameras but doesn’t use them for scouting deer. Wright said he wants to base his hunts on his woodsmanship skills.
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It’s all about growing the brotherhood of hunting. “We offer an experience, an access point,” he said.
With hunts being on public land, there’s no control over what you’ll see. “You should have no expectations except to have a good time,” he said.
The property is located near Game Lands 127, 157, 312 and Tobyhanna State Park, giving hunters plenty of public access land to hunt. He said nearby Brady’s Lake is “the most beautiful place to hunt.” He explained that there’s a long dirt road between mountains to hunt. “There’s great topography.”
Hunting is a family experience. He has children, ages 3, 2, and 5, and he’s looking forward to enjoying hunting with them some day. He said they “help” him and his wife as he processes most of his own deer meat. “It’s a blast. They love it,” he said about spending time together. His goal is to create a bond that lasts more than a lifetime with them and the outdoors.
Hunting is a time to bring people closer to nature and God, he said, and he offers a Christian-based camping experience. “Don’t be afraid to bring your Bible. I don’t shy away from Jesus Christ.” He prays before heading out to the woods.
Wright said hunting camp is about more than taking an animal; he believes you can find peace while spending time in the woods. “Hopefully you gain your spirituality back ... and center yourself,” he said.
Contact: Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Instagram @poconobrowns or through his website, poconobrowns.com, for more information and costs related to deer camps.
Brian Whipkey is the outdoor columnist for USA Today Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at email@example.com and sign up for our weekly Outdoors Newsletter email on your website's homepage under your login name.