Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Turkey and trout pursuit in Pennsylvania fail, but walking through the aftermath of a prescribed burn saves week

I missed the opening day of spring gobbler season because of a niece’s wedding, but by early Sunday morning I was on my way to Tioga County to hunt toms in Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon area and trout fish Big Pine Creek.

An ominous forewarning of the week to come was my companion that morning as it rained throughout the 170-mile trip.

I sat through a steady downpour Monday morning hunting turkeys, and experienced enough rain during the week that the hunting seemed to suffer because of it. Just as disagreeable, the near-constant rainfall had the Big Pine either muddy, or if it was clear enough to fish, high and fast.

Turkey and trout won the week.

But as it is with almost any ramble into the world of nature, there are things to see and teaching moments for those keen on observation. And so it was as I came upon a large area of year-old timbered woods that had recently gone through a prescribed burn – there was, indeed, something to learn.

Just the day before, speaking with personnel in the Tioga County Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Bureau of Forestry office, I learned that this prescribed burn on this particular area of state forest was undertaken for the purpose of regeneration.

Burning for regeneration is not a new idea. Native Americans, long before the white man came, would purposely ignite large areas of woodland with the intent of causing new growth of grasses, brush and trees – knowing that this form of renewal attracted the wide variety of game animals they depended upon for food and survival.

This was my first visit to such a place, so accompanied by the overwhelming odor that blackened earth and piles of ashes present, I walked into an edge of this burn.

Deciduous trees that survived the chainsaws from the prior year seemed as if they would again survive this fire. Conifers that still stood had their needles yellowed and now brittle, and I don’t know their future fate. Mountain laurel was now a spindly twist of brown stems, some with brown leaves, most barren. And any remaining tree limbs that lingered from the timbering and were scattered about, now lay burnt to smaller versions, or were just ashes.

It appeared as a waste area, sort of like a bomb had struck.

Yet, there were signs that this was not wasteland at all. 

Because of the recent rains there was no dust, and only the wet carbon lying on the ground clung to my boots. There were other indications, too, that this place held promise for a good future, as robins, blue jays and other unidentifiable (for me) small birds were flying about, occasionally landing on charred ground.

There was also a single set of deer tracks that had walked upon the same dark ground I was now standing on, perhaps because of equivalent curiosity, or maybe because of a reason I could not know.

Certainly, the heavy rains falling shortly after the fire will spur the start of this area's rebirth, and I can envision that soon enough small blades of grasses will push through the black earth, a hushed and gentle beginning for an old mountaintop.

There will, hopefully, be other days for me to hunt turkeys and wade waters and cast flies for trout. But walking through a place about to regenerate through the magic that is nature is an uncommon treat for this old boy.

This experience once again made this a special springtime week I look forward to annually – the rewards merely came in a new and different form

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