For Pennsylvania hunters, it's the most wonderful time of the year — turkeys, bears and deer
Have you ever had a whirlwind kind of week where you feel like up is down and down is up? Action is non-stop and the clock keeps ticking; hours are logged, sleep is limited, and after all is said and done, you look back in reflection and ask yourself, "Wow, did that really just happen?"
That is perhaps the best way to describe my life during the days leading up to and following the Thanksgiving holiday. As an avid outdoorsman, this brief window of consecutive hunting seasons is always a little crazy, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
It started with bear season, putting over 600 miles on my truck in five days, as I drove up to camp Friday night after work, hunted all day Saturday, drove home Sunday to work Monday, drove back up Monday night after work, hunted all day Tuesday, then drove home Tuesday night to beat the nasty snow storm that rolled in Wednesday.
I didn't harvest a bear this year, but my father took his camp-leading eighth career Pennsylvania bruin on Monday. What makes this remarkable is that he has killed all of his bears independently, at least one in each of the past four decades, without the help of an organized drive. He stand-hunts, and somehow the bears keep coming his way. No wonder his nickname is "Bear Magnet."
Thanksgiving morning was spent trying for a turkey on our family farm. We got into birds, but no shooting took place. Friday, I killed a jake in the snow, and then worked the flock for two hours trying to get my dad a shot, but without success.
Saturday morning began dark and early at 3 a.m. in order to make a daybreak arrival in Maryland for our neighbor state's firearms season opener. Five of us hunted all day on public land, and we came home with seven deer. In fact, everyone was successful – a feat that's not easy anywhere on public ground, let alone semi-unfamiliar territory.
The big doe I harvested was skinned, quartered, and thrown in my garage fridge by Sunday afternoon – just in time to wash all my clothes and ready my gear for the following day's Pennsylvania rifle season opener.
While hunting the family farm Monday morning, I was fortunate to harvest a heavy 9-point, my nephew Mitchell took a dandy 8-point, and my brother Travis killed the wide-8 (which actually turned out to be a 9-point) that I previously blogged about missing on the last day of archery season. All this was accomplished in little more than an hour's time, making it an unforgettable, banner day on the homestead.
The days that followed were spent quartering, deboning, cubing, grinding, vacuum-sealing and freezing the abundance of game meat harvested over the preceding week. Articles were written, film was edited and now I'm tired.
Though I still have two doe tags left, this Saturday will be spent helping my pregnant wife decorate for the holidays. She's a saint for putting up with me and for allowing me to turn our garage and kitchen into a makeshift butcher shop.
As the Christmas season approaches, I am constantly reminded that I have much to be thankful for – especially after the great success I've experienced in the outdoors recently. Holiday jingles will surely dominate local radio stations over the next few weeks, but I'll already know that for Pennsylvania sportsmen, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.