Hunting Pa. after N.Y. season ends

Mike RaykoviczNew York’s firearms deer season closed Dec. 8 but I still had Pennsylvania. This year the deer season in the Keystone state didn’t close until a week after New York’s and the last Friday looked like it would be the best of the remaining two days. The temperature was in the low 20s, there was little wind and snow was predicted for Saturday. Others must have been aware of the potential winter storm because by the number of trucks already parked along side the road, it looked like there were more than a few hunters heading to the woods.

I was dressed for the cold and needed every layer. The handwarmers in my jacket pocket barely took away the chill already nipping at my fingers. With hunters in the woods I wondered when I’d hear the first shot. Three hours later I heard it, and it was a long way off. With conditions being nearly ideal for deer hunting I didn’t hear a single shot until 10:30 a.m. What, I wondered, was going on?

My initial setup was in a hedgerow where I could watch three farm fields. Any deer pushed out by other hunters on neighboring farms would have to cross the frozen corn and alfalfa fields to get to the woods beyond me. I thought it was a good plan so I remained on watch until about 11 o’clock. If the deer were being pushed by other hunters they took a different path than the one I figured they would; after more than four hours on watch, I saw nothing.

I was cold and needed to move, so I walked about 300 yards to an area of mixed hardwoods. I knew of a large hemlock there, blown down by the wind from a previous storm and the upended root provided a comfortable place to sit, wait and have a hot drink. Below me an old logging road ran through the area, and I knew from past experience deer often traveled along that road.

About an hour later I hadn’t heard another shot, but to my right movement in the beech slash caught my eye. It was a flock of adult tom turkeys and they were slowly feeding in the stand of beech trees. If the deer weren’t going to show then at least I could be entertained by the big toms.  How ironic, I thought. Hunt deer and you see turkeys, hunt turkeys and you see deer. The more I see this phenomenon happen the more I’m beginning to believe there are such things as “deerkeys.”

The “deerkeys” moved on and so did the afternoon. After eight hours on watch without seeing a deer and hearing only three faint shots, I called it a day and trudged back to the truck, anxious for its warmth. Tomorrow would be better – if it didn’t snow.

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