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I am guessing the last time I hiked on Pennsylvania Game Commission State Game Lands 304 was twelve to fifteen years ago. The timing of this venture was in late August or September. The Deer Tick explosion in my area of Pennsylvania was in full force. I parked along a township road and headed up and over a hill in that year. Memory and time cheats me of specifics, but I either called and had turkeys answer me or I simply hear turkeys and set up to call them in.

Skunk Cabbage

I set up armed with a camera and began turkey talk. Their interest was apparent as I waited to see the birds sneaking into camera zones.

Buffalo Creek

For whatever reason I looked down only to see many ticks crawling upon my camo pants and shirt. I began removing and killing before getting up and leaving. the turkeys would have to wait. I couldn’t stand all those ticks crawling on my clothes. I needed to act and remove and kill as needed!

Today, I revisited this particular game lands, but not at the exact place I had been those many years ago.

I walked down a slope and eventually walked alongside to Buffalo Creek. The creek was beautiful. As I walked along I went upslope before hearing the distinct sound of a hen turkey. She began yelping, cackling loudly followed by others. In short order a gobbler or two began gobbling. Fighting with loud purring was heard as well. The wings were beating  loudly as various birds pushed to maintain or gain positions in the pecking order. The birds were across the creek. I eased slowly in their direction and eventually could see turkey movement about a hundred yards away.

I soon saw a big strutting gobbler, his white “snowball” head could clearly be viewed as it appeared to glow. (Turkey hunters will know what that means.)  About a half-an-hour of this show ended abruptly with the turkeys starting to feed again. Sad to say I could not get any photos due to the thickness of limbs.

I heard and saw Wood Frogs. I, also, saw some Red-spotted Newts and a pair of Mallard Ducks.

 

 

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IN DEFENSE

I certainly do have an avid interest in history. The French and Indian War years interest me a lot since many events of this era happened in Pennsylvania and within a few miles from where I grew up.  The years for this war locally began  in 1754 and lasted to 1758 when the French abandoned Fort Duquesne in present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania allowing General Forbes to take over the fort. He renamed the fort to Fort Pitt.

Within a mile from where I live is a community called Kittanning. During this war members, primarily, of the Lenni-lenape (Delaware) and Shawnee nations took up residence launching raids across Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. In September 1756, Lieutenant Colonel John Armstrong launched a raid upon Kit-Han-Ne. Mostly militia-style volunteers under Armstrong were involved in this attack. However, some Pennsylvania Provincial soldiers were involved. These soldiers would be dressed as shown in my painting called; IN DEFENSE.

IN DEFIANCE

The Indians of the time were brave warriors. The painting shown here called: IN DEFIANCE, depicts a naïve warrior defying the soldier. Eastern Indians usually wore little into battle preferring to paint themselves to aid in terrorizing the enemy. However, as cooler weather approached  clothing would be worn as needed.

These paintings were created  in 2004 and 2006.

Yes, recently this week I ventured out in some cold weather with stiff breezes to hike around a game lands. I hunted bear at this site last fall and wanted to explore some areas I hadn’t ventured into as of date. Immediately upon leaving a gas well road to move upslope the signs of deer beds were prevalent.  This area was shielded from the wind gusts and I suspect the deer made use of that fact. Numerous tracks were present as I hiked this adventure. I would see three deer later during the hike.

I circled around the hill’s side and old long-abandoned highwalls to fight Multiflora Rose and autumn Olive. I still have several thorns embedded into my hands as I type.

Once I moved up onto the top flats of this hill the winds became more brisk. They felt, almost, as a personal attack on me. However, I was prepared for the cold.

Turkey scratchings

I spotted some exposed leaves among some downed trees and discovered turkeys had been scratching the day before. Several hundred yards away I

Deer bed

came across fresh tracks. the tracks soon led to six to eight turkeys. I managed a few quick photos. I actually broke the flock up. If the cold was so demanding and may have set up to call some back, but I elected to continue moving to keep the old blood moving.

I walked a quarter of a mile and heard something moving in the brush only to see an adult gobbler. The brush did not allow any photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cone of a Tamarack. (Larch)

 

Note the swollen left side of this deer’s head. 

Before dawn I was busy cleaning the driveway from the several inches of fresh snow. The tractor’s battery had died and I decided to manually clean the drive instead of taking time to put the charger on the battery,

White-throated Sparrow

Interestingly, I soon began to hear the mating sounds from various birds. the Cardinal and Tufted Titmouse’s chirps were distinctive.  Soon I heard Canada geese and a pair flew over me honking away. nature’s mating season is in full force.

Later this day I would need to be ready to play at two nearby rest homes, but I managed to get several hours of hiking.

Deer tracks were numerous as I moved along. Fortunately, I spotted a deer bedded down among the fallen trees. I quickly located three more. I clicked some phots and moved on without spooking any of the three deer.

Birdlife was plentiful this morning. Cardinals, Juncos, White-throated Sparrows were common. I succeeded with getting some decent pics.

 

 

Cardinal in flight

 

 

Peek-a-boo

 

 

 

 

Woodland’s Time

My friend, Frank “Muskie” Maus did out annual mid-winter hike time today. Frank wanted to explore some new woodland areas bordering a Pennsylvania Game Lands. He has a nephew who purchased some acreage with a home so the potential of hunting the area needed some exploration.  I have been on these particular game lands, at least, three or four times, but not on the acreage mentioned above.

 

Hill Country!

The area is typical with some old, long-abandoned, highwall mining sites, Autumn Olive and multiflora thickets.  While traveling through these wooded areas we saw plenty of deer tracks.

We circled the hill’s edge and returned to the road before traveling to another site familiar to Frankie as a hunter. AT this site we traveled along some high and steep river hills. We could see the mighty Allegheny River at times.

We didn’t make to this slope!

During this venture we saw around 10-12 Wild Turkeys. I arrived home after 1:00 so our time afield covered over four hours. Snow was still present in most of the areas we hiked. We, both, enjoy having some snow to help us see and observe tracks. Talks of another venture  were made and we discussed future fishing adventures.

Climax Tunnel Area

New Climax Tunnel repairs

 

This stone is behind the new addition.

 

Always go towards the light…

Last weekend was a cold and breezy day. However, Laurie and I walked some along the Redbank Valley trail bordering Redbank Creek. I wanted to check on a Bald Eagle nest, as well.

We crossed out of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania at the small community of Climax. The one lane bridge over the creek is a rather new bridge. I remember some time back when this bridge was a metal bridge. Once we crossed the bridge to park for a trail hike we were in Clarion County.

Beaver cuttings

The Climax Tunnel, or the original name of Anthony Loup Tunnel,  goes through a rocky hillside. the tunnel was an old railroad passage many years ago.  The

Mergansers

Anthony Loup on Redbank is an amazing waterways for the waters goes way out, maybe a mile or so before turning back sharply making for an area possibly separated with only a couple of hundred yards of land mass at one point.

The tunnel has recently been renovated and improved by the Redbank  Valley Trails organization. Water leaking through the stones along with freeze/thaw cycles had an effect on the ceiling areas. the tunnel had been closed for quite some time for hikers for fear of injury. the tunnel is 520 feet in length. The tunnel was built between 1878 and 1877.

The eagle nest didn’t appear to be complete. High winds over the last few months must have blown much of the bulk down. However, after going through the tunnel and looking high in a White Pine I could see a huge nest. This nest was across Redbank Creek and about halfway up the slope. Could this be the new nest of the Bald eagles?

We walked along the trail for a time seeing five Mergansers on the creek.

 

 

Light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Probable Bald Eagle Nest

 

Redbank Creek

 

Ken Crummett helping me hold a gobbler.

The friendship between Ken Crummett and myself is a story of interest. Many years ago I had a painting used on the cover of TURKEY CALL magazine. (TURKEY CALL is the magazine presented by the National Wild Turley Federation bases out of Edgefield, South Carolina.) With this cover I had an ad within the pages offering the painting as a print. The painting is, “SPRINGTIME MAJESTY.”

Sometime after the ad came out I received a phone call from a man from Crummett Mountain, West Virginia.  His family had lived on the mountain even before the Civil War. Ken had located me through a mutual friend from Arkansas, His name was “Wingbone” Cryer. Wingbone was in the mid-eighties at this time.  he looked me up and had stopped here in Pennsylvania after hunting gobblers in New York. He met with Ken Crummett while traveling back home giving Ken my phone number. Ken ordered a print.

This exchange occurred in the early 1990 time frame. Ken and I talked those many years periodically. In fact the calls were common as to every month or so.

  In recent years Ken and another turkey hunting friend named Galen Braddy from North Carolina would get together for a few days to pursue gobblers locally in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. Another mutual friend Kip Feroce graciously allowed us to spend time at his camp.

Ken, also, in recent years had two strokes. the second one interfered with his speech some. He lost his ability to walk well, too. With that in mind, Kip would set up a ground blind near fields  within sight of his camp. Last year I helped ken to the blind and sat with him until light. I asked him if he cared if I ventured around the back side of the round top where we were set up. Of course, ken told me to definitely go. I was to circle around and check on him from time to time.

I heard a gobbler on the roost directly behind the ground blind. The turkey went off before I could get set up. I returned to check on ken and would sneak back a little later on. I called and received some far off gobbling. I worked the side of the steep hill following the gobbler.  Finally I got above him and bagged the tom.

I went back to the ground blind and told the story to Ken. he was so delighted on my success. We sat I the blind for a time talking and laughing. Ken became tired and we walked back to the camp. he said he wasn’t going out anymore this morning so we enjoyed quality time waiting for Kip and Galen’s return.

Galen, Kip, Ken and myself

Ken and I talked often since that last hunt together. I called him just last week and gave him a rough time. I enjoyed hearing his life and that West Virginia drawl. I am going to miss talking with my friend.