Not giving up on bagging a Pennsylvania whitetail
It would be both mindless and a bit foolish for me to renounce any more deer hunting for the current season in southeastern Pennsylvania — which ends Jan. 26 — if for no other reason, I practice what I preach, and that is to never give up.
Of course, there are plenty of additional reasons to be afield now besides the taking of a whitetail. This time of year often finds hunting accompanied with the beauty of cold and snow. This allows for the sighting of other woodland creatures besides deer, and I immensely enjoy their winter antics, keeping my attention while no deer are in sight.
The deer, too, are far less pressured and have returned to a more normal state of being, feeding freely and moving about less reluctantly. This in itself is wonderful to watch and enjoy, and offers a higher percentage at the chance for a good shot.
One of the spots I hunt is a narrow section of woods that runs for about a half-mile in a sloping manner along a major highway. At its highest point it is perhaps 500 yards wide. From there it generally thins in width to its bottom edge of no more than 50 yards. It is basically a hollow with a banking character beside the highway and two open fields that this year held soybeans on the opposite side.
Within this basin are a small patch of pine, thick underbrush, some of which is multiflora rose and greenbriar, some honeysuckle, a good mixture of hardwoods that produce typical deer nourishment and a small stream. It’s perfect whitetail habitat if you discount the constant rumblings of passing traffic, which the deer don’t seem to mind.
I hunt the edge along the bean fields, usually climbing a couple of trees that hold my portable treestand safely. I also have made a diminutive blind in a small island of woods that sits in one of the fields.
So far this flintlock season — my choice of a hunting tool — I have sat in that island because deer have been entering the field alongside one of my treestand spots in the afternoon, and I know they bed close to that area this time of year. So it would be unwise for me to go there to climb the tree and scare the deer away during any late-day hunts.
The island is a couple hundred yards from that spot, but that’s okay, because deer can enter the fields anywhere, and they have.
I’ve had five different bucks come close to that island, but only one was legal. That was a five-pointer that had passed me before I realized he had three up on one side. The other males were two spikes, a Y-buck of good width, and a three-pointer with a “Y” on the left and a spike on the right, which came close. The afternoon of the three-pointer encounter, I had the presence of mind to have my camera with me and shot a couple of photos of him.
I’ve also had two small does close to the blind that would have been good shots, but I won’t be pulling the trigger on any yearling deer.
I haven’t hunted any mornings, nor have I hunted every afternoon, but I’ve been out plenty of times since Christmas season ended, attempting to tag a deer. Just the other afternoon I hunted a different spot, and as hard as it may seem to believe, I saw a buck chasing a doe (a late breeder) that came near me as darkness was closing in and I was packing to leave, my flintlock not even in my hands.
Snow is now on the way to these parts. It could be heavy and dim the prospects of my connecting on a deer. But encounters like the ones mentioned above are the basic reason I love to be a hunter, this time of year anyway. It goes far beyond filling a tag, and that alone makes quitting not an option.