A week-long hunter’s delight in Pennsylvania
I was outside last week on the Saturday opener for ducks in Pennsylvania’s Southern Zone. I hunted with three friends and we headed to a familiar farm field corner that almost always holds water.
With all the rain we’ve experienced throughout the summer and into early fall, the field was a virtual swamp. We slogged through mud so heavy and thick it sank our boots deep enough that certain spots held us captive, especially for my older legs, and that was just to reach the water hole.
Eventually, decoys were scattered about in the now-enlarged puddle. We waited for first light that went well past legal shooting time as unneeded rain fell from sinister skies, which also withheld any flights of ducks.
Soon enough, though, a huge flock mixed with mallards and wood ducks pitched toward the hole, and a volley from four guns hammered through the gloomy morning air. We ended the morning with a good mix of wood ducks and mallards in the bag.
I hunted ducks again Monday morning. I was alone and at another nearby farm that held a large puddle that was surrounded by standing corn. On three occasions, small flocks of wood ducks buzzed my four decoys that never offered a decent shot, but just the fact that so many ducks are in the area brings hope that the regular season’s start in November will be the beginning of a banner waterfowl year.
By early Tuesday afternoon, I was headed to my camp in Tioga County to try for a doe with a flintlock that afternoon and on Wednesday. Saw deer both days but never a decent shot. Thursday was the start of the three-day rifle season for anterless deer for juniors, mentored youth, seniors and active service members, and I, too, carried a rifle that first morning.
I saw deer often in the morning along with a huge black bear that passed me at about 20 yards, but the deer were far away, sort of spooked and basically difficult to determine sex-wise, so a shot never presented itself.
That afternoon, deer eluded me.
The weather was changing during the week with cold winds and snow squalls presenting conditions not seen since last winter. Perhaps that was the reason I watched a doe and her single offspring run past me at about a 100 yards on Friday morning — without offering a shot — and then a good number of bucks following over a 45-minute span, sniffing the ground where she had passed. Three of those held good antlers and I could only assume the doe had to be nearing her breeding stage to bring the bucks following behind, which I thought was early for this area.
I stayed until Saturday and never fired a shot, but boy, was it a great time to be outdoors in cold weather and with abundant game animals passing by.
Back home, friends were still hunting ducks. Rabbit, squirrel and grouse seasons were also open, and I knew some hunters who were chasing those species. By Saturday, pheasant hunting for everyone was opening across the state, and a close friend had gone afield with his dog and experienced success.
I’ll return to the woods this week, in earnest now with the rut approaching, for archery deer hunting. I’ll certainly throw in an afternoon or two for rabbits and pheasants with friends and their dogs, too.
This past week was an extraordinary time to be a hunter in Pennsylvania, and it carries on for months to come.