DSC_0002 Bear hunting in Pennsylvania for the lone hunter is quite an experience. This kind of hunter (Me) has no person to follow, but his instincts. That is the way I like it. However, as I age I may need to rethink still-hunting to more stand hunting.

Pheasant track

Pheasant track


Last Friday, the 20th, I scouted the area I planned to hunt bear, the opener fell the following morning  of the 21st of November. I planned to concentrate in, and around, a recently clear cut hollow on a local state game lands. I found several piles of bear droppings. I knew bear had been in this area two to three days ago. Maybe a bear would still be sticking around.



DSC_0002   I walked about a mile on the first morning (Second morning here)while darkness still was the norm. I reached an area as the sky became colored  as the sun crept higher. It was a beautiful sunrise. However, prior to my arrival I was serenaded by a pair of Great-horned Owls. I stopped several times just to take their soothing hoots in. I smiled.                                                                                                                                          DSC_0004

DSC_0011  A flock of Canada Geese fly over minutes after the skies became  bright. I always enjoy seeing, and listening to geese. I saw four hen pheasants in the autumn olive thickets as well as one rooster. The next morning I saw this same rooster perched high in a tree.                                                                          DSC_0007

I left the woods earlier than I had planned due to severe knee issues.

I still-hunted most of the morning finding a total of fifteen piles of bear dung. They, too, were not “smoking fresh”. I talked to one hunter as he was coming in to hunt, and I was leaving.


My Jeep was parked behind the higher hill, in shadow, on the right.

My Jeep was parked behind the higher hill, in shadow, on the right.

The second morning (Third morning hunting)I  moved in to one area where the bear sign was most numerous. the food supply was still present, and I hoped they might be cycled back around. They were not around and no new sign was present.

The corn had been harvested.

The corn had been harvested.

Again, I saw geese. I patrolled around until after noon before leaving for home. I never saw another hunter.

The morning of the 24th found me in another area and game lands. I was near Mahoning, and could often see Mahoning Creek. This hunt consisted of still-hunting a steep northern exposed hill. I had hoped to find a bear in this habitat.



I heard the sounds of a screech owl this morning as I maneuvered into the early woods. Around 7:30, I heard bear hunters  way across the Mahoning putting on a drive. Five shots rang out…bear, coyote?

These hills spell Pennsylvania! They are big, and steep. No wonder I hurt so bad anymore. A lifetime of scrambling up, and down such terrain takes a toll! I returned back to the jeep around noon.        DSC_0008

I saw a number of deer, a grouse, and squirrels on these days afield. I feel blessed to be able enjoy times like these.

No Rhyme Or Reason

LARRY RR CROPPED ORIGINAL with words  Those reading that heading are, probably, thinking what is he up to now. The answer is simple. The words, No Rhyme Or Reason, is the title of my latest CD.

The title came about as I searched for songs  while I was planning for the CD. Some were songs I just randomly found while searching. Some of the songs I had never heard before. As you can see the songs came about because of No Rhyme Or Reason!

I slowly chose songs over a period of time. Most are  of the traditional country sound. My voice is limited in range, so I tried to use songs I felt I could handle.

Do not even ask how many hours I have in putting these songs into this CD. I don’t know, but many, many, many hours were involved. Once a song was decided upon I needed to determine the key that worked well with my voice.  Words were typed, and arrangements were worked out.                  larry rr fog sepia new (2)

Every song has many tracks on it. Most of the fifteen songs have, at least, nine to ten tracks. I begin with laying down the rhythm, and bass guitar tracks. After these have been completed then anything goes. Some songs have, as many, as five to six guitar arrangements.

Songs include songs made famous by Ray Price; Keith Whitley; George Strait; John Fogerty; Hank Williams; Taylor Swift; George Jones, and Bob Wills. Yes, there is even a western swing song form the 1940 era.

My good friend, Marci Williams sang most harmonies with her melodious voice. This CD would be much less without her superb harmony styles. She, also, sang the lead vocals on two songs. I sang harmony on one, and she sang her own harmony on the other song. What talent! Marci is, also, an incredible artist!

Other friends worked on this venture as well. My good friend, Dick Vernon, did some steel guitar on a number of songs. Another friend, Billy Rich did some great fiddle work for that country sound. Both of these gentlemen have been playing music for a long time.

Two of the included songs are original gospel songs I had written. I wrote them during spring gobbler hunting lulls over a period of time. I did some keyboard work on one of these songs. That was interesting since I don’t play the piano! Somehow it worked.       Back page

My sister, Ruthie Wolfe did the photography, and text layouts. She always does a great job! I appreciate her talents!

If anyone is interested in obtaining one of these CDs, I am asking for a $12.00 donation. If I mail them out I am asking for an additional $3.00 to help cover costs of shipping, and mailing.

Thank you for your interest!

Larry A. Smail at 481 Butler Road, Kittanning, PA 16201

Frosty Morning

DSC_0002  I entered the woods fairly early. I had hoped to enjoy some woodland time to think, and relax. I, also, hoped for some photo opportunities, and see some wildlife.

I love those Pennsylvania hills!

I love those Pennsylvania hills!

This would be the heaviest frost of the season around these parts. Some of the deep hollows had enough frost to look like a light snow!  I dressed for the colder temperatures however, I knew I would be warm as the day moved along.                   DSC_0013

I followed a hollow for about one mile, often drifting along old logging roads to explore. Eventually, I cam to a place where forward movement would be thwarted in a big way. Multiflora Rose brambles and lots of them!     DSC_0017                                                    DSC_0009

I realized getting through that mess would be next to impossible without a machete, so I went n reverse searching for openings to move up the hill. I wanted t explore an old high wall, too.

I moved along any opening I could find until I reached a place where the brambles had me surrounded again on three sides. I could see the summit up above at about twenty-five feet. I elected to plow through the best I could rather than go back. MISTAKE!


I slowly eased through moving those far-reaching rose arms however I could. They were winning as I continually felt the stings. I tried to work over a log and felt the fall, and I felt the thorn driving deep into my palm. (The thorn is still in my hand!)                  DSC_0008I reached he summit deciding to head across the high wall towards the car. What started out as an enjoyable trek ended with pains. Oh well, one needs to expect such things in nature!

I saw deer, including one buck; turkeys; a grouse on a log; some ringneck hens, and some squirrels.

DSC_0001I had watched the weather, and checked my commitments. I had one afternoon available to walk along the banks of Crooked Creek. I chose to walk south of Cochran’s Mill. (Cochran’s Mill was removed in the 1930 era to make way for the Crooked Creek Dam. All that can be found here are foundation stones scattered among the woodlands. This area floods most years as the water if held back at the dam.

I hurried to this area, and began a leisurely stroll. The terrain varied from level to hilly to outright steep. I had to deal with rocky areas, and muddy sites.                                                       DSC_0007

The leaves were beautiful, so I picked a good day to go explore. Some trees, like the sycamore, had already lost their leaves. However, the beech were in their glory with golds; oranges; bronze, and yellow.DSC_0015

Wildlife sightings were sparse. I saw one female merganser flying downstream with haste. I saw two brown creepers searching for morsels among the bark crevices.


Beech Trees

Beech Trees

I hadn’t been in this area in many years. I would walk from my grandparents often to explore these steep slopes, and play in the water. I hunted at times.                     DSC_0012

Note the low water level.

Note the low water level.

In the seventies I helped plant various seed-producing trees, and shrubs along with members of the Pennsylvania Wild Turkey Federation. I wonder how all of those plantings survived???

On top of the hill I found a family cemetery in the woods. Trees surrounded the site even way back then. I enjoyed the memories as I left the waterways to head back home.


DSC_0002  Today was a bittersweet day. My cousin Lois passed away at her home and was discovered on Thursday. Funeral begins on Sunday, November 1. I silently debated on going hunting or not. Her dad, like my dad, were hunters, and I realized she would expect me to hunt today.

My step-father, Bob, and I walked through the pre-dawn forest to listen for roosting turkeys. We failed to hear any from the trees so the walk, call, and listen approach was to be the type of hunting for us.                             DSC_0018

We met up around 10:00 to compare notes. neither of us had seen, or heard any turkeys. We walked within site to check a ridge. Nothing to show for our efforts.

We planned another strategy. He was to walk an old logging road while I paralleled him through the side of the hill where numerous briars, and vines were located. However, within minutes this plan would become altered. I started down a slope, and immediately backed away. TURKEYS!


A small spike buck.

A small spike buck.

I whistled to Bob, and motioned him to come to me. I told him what I had just viewed, and devised a plan. I was to circle and try for a breakup of the turkeys. I feared attempting to go down over on a run with the knee surgery. Bob was to set up slightly on the ridge and wait the results.



I eased below where I had seen the birds before noticing them going diagonally up, and over where I had just came from. I did the same hoping to go, up and over, right into them, and bust them up!

Box Turtle shell

Box Turtle shell

I reached the area and no birds. I quickly climbed higher, and as I began coming over this ridge top I could see the turkeys in my shotgun range.  I ran, and yelled with turkeys flying in a hundred and eighty degree arc. I moved to my right , and picked up Bob telling him what had happened.  They went past his position, probably, within 60 yards.

Free to a good home!

Free to a good home!

We set up about ten yards apart. I started to call after about twenty minutes since seeing the turkeys. I could hear turkeys downslope in short order. Two birds came up, and over, but worked along the ridge away from us. Soon more birds were talking loudly behind me. Bob messed up by moving on birds that were almost on his position.

Minutes later another turkey was loudly “chirping”. This bird walked within ten yards of Bob, but behind him, and he sat tight. I could see he wasn’t going to be able to get a shot. The turkey went behind a tree allowing me to move. The bird kept coming along the slope. I leveled the Remington 870. The turkey reappeared from behind another tree and BOOM! I had a gobbler.                 DSC_0016

I told Bob to set still, and I sat down beside him. In a few minutes we were hearing more turkeys, and seeing four more. These birds remained out of range as they got together with their mother. Eventually, I tried to relocate them, but missed them along the way. Bob was ready to call it a day.

We saw a number of deer, and squirrels.

My cousin’s funeral is Monday. Bob, and I, will try again  next week.



Venison For Winter!

  DSC_0002  I need to be honest with myself. I still endure pain issues in the knee that I had surgery on. Whenever, I feel healing is doing well, I have setbacks with pains; discomfort; clicks, and pinches. I need to tell myself to limit the miles, and avoid the steeper hills. I am still hopeful less pain will be true, as more time drifts along.                           DSC_0005

Last Monday, October 19, I hunted  for half a day. I had 22 deer sightings before returning home at around 1:00. I, also, saw a red fox, and a flock of turkeys. Lots of squirrels!

Prior to nine in the morning, I spotted a doe in the dogwood; crab apples and goldenrods. The deer was around forty yards or so. I believed it was closer.  I leveled “Jeremiah” and missed! Jeremiah is my .62 caliber smoothbore French fowler. The original style dates back into the latter eighteenth century. I have killed deer with this firearm in the past, but I still mess up on occasion. The smoothbore doesn’t have a rear sight. One has to get the check down on the stock and aim true. Any slight deviance of this and the shot can, easily, fly high, or low. Also, smoothbores are not a long range gun of accuracy. the barrel, as the name states, doesn’t have rifling grooves in the barrel to stabilize the lead ball. Accuracy is easily faltered by this at yardages of over forty yards. Whatever happened…I missed!

DSC_0004  I spent slightly more than two hours searching for any sign of a hit, or a downed deer. I concluded a miss.

October 21st found me out again. I saw fewer deer this morning. I spotted a deer in a spruce thicket. I lost sight quickly in the tangled tree tops and limbs. I still hunted along side, and spotted the doe in a deciduous woodlands that bordered the spruce growth. I shot and a deer moved down through the woods. I searched for over an hour with the same results as Monday’s hunt.  A miss! I always with thinking wonder if I did all I could do searching.

I hunted with my step father, Bob Miller on Thursday. We saw some deer. I almost shot a doe, but decided to not shoot for Bob’s benefit. We were home early for breakfast with my mother.

DSC_0003 Today was the day! early in the morning I heard a shot where Bob usually goes hunting. I had driven myself and parked along a road, and Bob was over on the other road. I didn’t know with certainty he would be hunting.

I found Bob in a field, and he quickly told me the story. We searched for over an hour, and found nothing. We spotted a deer walking through the dense crabapples; dogwoods and briars. We continued looking. Bob went one way as I headed towards the area where this deer had gone. I wanted to be sure this deer wasn’t hit by Bob’s shot. No blood!                                                                          DSC_0011

However, I looked up to see the deer moving out ahead of me at about thirty-five to forty yards. I identified it as a doe. The doe stopped. I had a small opening  to shoot through for the briars were thick. I held a tight aim and shot. I walked up and looked around. The doe was down at another forty yards. The shot had been true and humane.

DSC_0003 I used “Old Jacob” on this hunt. This is a style of flintlock rifle made in the 1780 era by Andrew Verner of Pennsylvania. It is a 50 caliber flinter. I have harvested a lot of deer with this firearm. Notice this gun is a rifle. This means the barrel has “rifling” in the barrel to stabilize the lead ball for better accuracy.

As I type this, Bob has returned to the woods to set a spell watching for deer!


Quehanna Adventure

DSC_0007 This week has things to do every evening for me except today. With that thought in mind I headed north to Quehanna trails for some serious hiking. This day was to be, also, a test to see how much I can do since my knee surgery.                                                    DSC_0005

I moved out this morning at about 5:15 to plan my arrival near 7:30 A.M. My plan worked out perfectly. I turned south at Medix Run, Pennsylvania searching for a trail to explore.  DSC_0008  DSC_0009

I began my first trail at about 7:20 in the morning while the fog still saturated the hollows.  I would soon reverse the plan when I realized the trail had some major wash out concerns. However, I did see a bull elk at close range. I stumbled for my camera only to miss the chance at getting this majestic creature at about forty yards.

I went over the hill to hike another trail. The trail began with some steep climbs until I reached the flat areas of the top. I debated whether I should be doing such a task this early since the knee surgery at times. I, also, wondered about how anybody would find me if I would get hurt or worse!                                        DSC_0018

Medix Run

Medix Run

The steep slopes consisted mostly maples thus not a good food source foe many animal species. However, once I reached to top (One hour and ten minutes.) Plenty of oak , and beech could be viewed. Immediately, I began to see, and hear chipmunks, and a couple of squirrels.    DSC_0019 DSC_0027

Eventually, I knew I needed to go over the steep slope to reach Medix Run watercourse. I knew plenty of great photos could be had way down over.  Here is where I made my mistake. The side was sleep. I fell at one point, and slipped and slid a couple of more times. This aggravated my knee.

DSC_0038 I finally made the trip to the Jeep at almost noon. I was dealing with some pain. I drove around to the Marion Brooks Natural Area. I was at this spot two years ago during a moderate rain. I became soaked that day. I wanted to take some  photos of the numerous white birch trees that are found on site.

DSC_0035  I didn’t walk very far. I crawled up on a rock and rested some before heading back to start the trip home.

All told I saw one bull elk; 1 deer (Two while traveling including a nice buck. I, also, saw a truck hit a doe. The deer came through underneath as I dodged hitting her. How sad. the trucker never tried to slow down.) I saw a flock of about 15-18 turkeys. The photos didn’t come out well.


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