Pennsylvania’s golden mountainsides beckon hunters
I headed to camp last week for a few days of archery hunting. My departure on Thursday morning to Tioga County found me pushing my truck through heavy winds the entire trip, part of a front that was moving in following a preceding Wednesday of rain.
Ruling out climbing a tree that afternoon, I instead did some scouting. Finding plenty of deer sign in the way of tracks, scrapes and rubs, I was set to carry my stand to a tree I thought perfect for ambush, and climb it in the darkness of Friday morning, ready for sighting passing deer when light came.
That possibility was ruled out when Friday morning still blew with heavy gusts of northwest wind. I sat on the ground at another spot that morning and saw only a passing red fox. By the afternoon the wind had died and I was able to climb the tree I had intended to ascend in the morning.
I sat till darkness, a couple of squirrels my only wild companions. The next morning I was up that tree once again, a heavy frost covering land and stand. I was lucky enough to see eight different does and a small-racked buck. None of the deer passed closer than 50 yards, much too far for a shot, but just their movement past me at different times made for a rush of blood at those perfect moments as coldness was setting in.
Saturday evening I chose a different place, a spot at the edge of a wood line where I’ve often seen deer amble into a grass field to feed. Unfortunately, for me, a tractor with a rake came into the field to turn some freshly mowed hay a half hour before sunset. Forget deer after that.
Monday morning saw fog so heavy even a 20-yard shot was out of the question. I packed and headed home when the fog finally lifted near noon.
That may seem like a problematic and disappointing hunting excursion. I cannot say that I wasn’t a little let down, for I was. But in truth, I felt more enjoyment than dissatisfaction.
To sit in Pennsylvania’s woods in late October is sheer delight. The color of leaves is nothing short of spectacular. Though many tumble and spin toward the ground with each passing stir of wind, others shake and protest with a rattling noise, holding to their limbs, staying aloft till another day. And days that frost will cover them, a rising sun will warm them, allowing their brightened hues to shine again.
Grasses, too, still fight off a future of winter cold, and birds and squirrels and chipmunks are always scurrying through this still-green growth for bits of food. In the woods, where nuts and other fruits have fallen, there is always ground activity from food gathers.
Sitting still in all this splendor and wonderful mixes of color and busy small animals, and to know that at any time a deer may pass and offer a shot, provides a special pleasure in itself.
I’ve always known and appreciated through all my life, this beauty of fall woods when hunting. But now, in my older days, I’m grateful for it all the more. I still come for deer, but I’m always pleased, no matter if I leave with one or not.
For any Pennsylvania outdoor person, the mountains, hills and flatlands that hold these spectacular fusion of varied colors, plus the abundance of wildlife moving about, should surely beckon an inner spirit to come and enjoy