As Pennsylvania sportsmen, we have much for which to be thankful because opportunities abound for anyone willing to put in the time and effort required to enjoy them.
On Thanksgiving week, scores of hunters piled into mountain laurel flats, boggy swamps and clear-cut thickets in search of the state’s prized bruins. While the raw, blustery rainclouds that soaked most of Pennsylvania for the Saturday black bear opener put a damper on first-day harvest figures, many still couldn’t resist the chance to get out there and hunt.
I had my backside planted on a hillside — crutches and all — just a week out of knee surgery. It took some promising not to venture far from the truck to convince my wife to let me go, but I’m glad I was able to be there. I only saw two does and a buck – not the buck I was seeking — but I knew I’d be thinking “what if” had I not braved the elements and put in an all-day shift. No regrets.
Still, others had their Thanksgiving morning rituals, stealing away for a quick hunt before the holiday meal is served. Some anticipate an annual small-game hunt with family or friends, happy to take a few cottontails, squirrels or pheasants. Others look forward to the three-day fall turkey season that reopens in many areas of the state, hoping to score their own bird for the roaster pan.
Meanwhile, waterfowl hunters lay out spreads of decoys, attempting to entice migrating ducks and geese into taking a quick respite in freshly harvested grain fields. This time of year is perfect for waterfowl hunting, and the day off from work leaves a window of opportunity that’s hard to avoid.
Anglers hit the rivers in bass boats targeting chunky smallmouth, while trout hunters wade smaller creeks with a fly-rod and streamers or light tackle rods and spinning lures. A taught line in clear water is a beautiful thing in late November or early December.
And trapping is just picking up, since furs are finally prime in most regions of the state. My 2-and-a-half-year-old son recently enjoyed helping me make “steel soup” this week, as I boiled my traps in walnut hulls, tagged them with ID markers and ran a short line behind our house.
It is time spent outdoors with my little buddy for which I am most thankful … and I can’t wait for him to see the rewards of our labor if we manage to catch a big old boar coon or wily red fox in one of our field sets.
Yes, the blessings are numerous this time of year, and sportsmen should give thanks to have so many incredible opportunities to pursue our outdoor passions in Pennsylvania. We’ve got it pretty good, actually, and I’m truly grateful for it.