Last day of Pennsylvania flintlock season a treasured success
Here, where I call home in a smallish corner of southeastern Pennsylvania, the season for flintlock deer hunting ran two weeks longer than in most other areas of the state.
The weather finally took a different course from the absurd cold, with milder days and nights. As a result, I was able to spend considerable time hunting the past week.
Every morning except Friday, I hunted Canada geese with friends. We fooled quite a few birds on those mornings, but never reached a collective limit on any of those hunts. Still, it’s always a great experience when the big birds cup wings and stretch their feet to land among a decoy spread — even if the shooting success is sometimes poor at best.
Every afternoon except Tuesday, which saw strong winds that followed a morning of rain and fog, I sat on a favorite section of mountain I hunt, hoping to get a shot at a whitetail with my trusty flintlock muzzleloader by my side.
I varied my spots on each hunt during those afternoon excursions, sitting comfortably on a portable chair within tight tree groupings or near the largest tree I could find that would aid my concealment. I stayed close to trails I knew from experience may have deer moving on them toward feeding grounds in late afternoon.
One other factor I considered before sitting was to be close to a stand of oak trees. I deemed that important because prior trips to that mountaintop spot, when snow was covering the ground and the cold was preposterous, showed the deer were digging and turning over the earth below the snow, seeking the abundant acorns that had dropped this past fall. In need of wintertime energy, this is a favorite food source of theirs.
I saw deer every afternoon. On Monday, eight passed single file. They were 80 to 100 yards away, and that is just too far for me to trust my muzzleloader shooting capability for a killing shot. I let them pass. A half-hour later, I caught movement to my right. Three does were moving through a thicket at 40 yards, well within range, but like I said, in a thicket. No shooting.
On Wednesday, four does came to my right side only 15 minutes after I had gotten comfy, through a thicket once again. I sat near some oaks that grow beside a small field, hoping they would enter either the field or the oak patch. I had my hammer cocked, ready for the first chance to shoot, but they stayed in the thicket, and skirted all of the area I was hoping they would come to.
Thursday, three more does came walking through the woods. I had moved to be closer to where the three passed Monday, but they, in turn, were closer to where I had sat before and offered no chance for a clear shot.
Friday, at a different spot yet again, I saw two deer late, in legal time, but within darkened woods and beyond where I could trust shooting.
Friday night I talked with a close hunting friend who had a change of plans for the weekend, which now allowed him to hunt Saturday, the final day. We chose a spot where we would hunt, a different mountain from where I had spent the afternoons of the week, but not really that far from where I had hunted. He would travel down the mountainside in darkness and be tree-bound when first light made its way into the forest. I would enter the woods along the top edge at shooting time, waiting that long in case I bumped deer in his direction, and sit at a spot on the mountain’s top. At 9 o’clock, I would walk down the mountain, passing through a section of downed trees and laurel with the hope of driving deer to him.
At 8:30, I heard the unmistakable boom of his flintlock. Two minutes later he called to tell me he had taken a big doe, so no need for me to make a drive. I returned to my truck, retrieved a 6-foot-long plastic sled I keep in the bed, and hiked downhill to him and his deer. The sled eased considerably the uphill drag.
I do not measure hunting success by the number of kills I have, or those of my friends, but rather by the experience of being outside, hunter against quarry, especially now, later in my life. But the laughter and puffing bringing that doe up the mountain, and then the skinning and quartering of an animal we were both thankful for, is something I do quantify.
And it made for a perfect ending to a season of deer hunting.