Archive for November, 2011

Third Day Buck Season

The annual Pennsylvania buck season came on Monday, November 28th of this year. That day and the next came, and went, without my presence in the woodlands. A number of variables contributed to my decision to remain home those two days. One reason was the fact that I hadn’t been feeling my best for several days and I was debating whether I should call a doctor or not. The heat was another factor. The temperatures remained around 60 degrees for two days. Since I process my own deer I was concerned with the warm days and nights…not good for keeping deer meat safe.

 Another factor is my style of hunting deer. I prefer to “still hunt” for deer. The vast majority of hunters are setting around hoping for someone like me to move the deer. (Still hunting is the method where  the hunter walks a little and watches a lot.) And the final factor is that the 4-point to one side law that had been in place and it is difficult hunting with my style and counting 4 points. This had caused me to lose some enthusiasm. For years I used a flintlock for buck and the handicap of the law and flintlock forced me into, primarily, a doe hunter.

This year the law changed once more. Presently, the hunter needs to see only three points on the main branch of antler to be considered legal. This will make identifying a legal buck easier.

        This morning originally had plans and potential plans in place. I was not going to hunt. The plans changed for our delivery of a new range to late in the day. The other possible plan was to have breakfast with a friend. Dana Gould had e-mailed me about possibly meeting. We talked Tuesday evening and decided to postpone our event and a hunt was now reality for me.

I began my sneaking around early in the grayness of the morning. Light rain and some snow occurred most of the morning. Eventually, I eased towards a field where my step-father, Bob may be watching. He wasn’t there as I watched two doe feeding. I checked along the road and his truck wasn’t there. He had decided to stay home this morning.

I continued my trek until I hunted slowly along an area that had been timbered out sometime ago.The deer like this place due to the old tree tops and young brush.

   Suddenly I noticed deer fur in the brush. A still-hunter always looks for parts of a deer. This might be a leg; an ear; a horizontal brown line; a white color, or maybe a glint of antler. I stepped one more foot and I could see antlers and the torso and the head of a nice buck! I was about 55 yards away and once I noticed three points on one side I shot.The buck was laying in this area and he never moved. The shot was true. Another buck jumped up.

The buck had a near perfect set of antlers with eight nice points. It was 17 inches across. The Remington 760 in the 30:06 caliber did the job.

I called Bob and he came with his truck. I called my cousin Donnie Smail for help once we dragged the buck to the truck. We couldn’t lift the deer onto the tail gate. While standing there a buck crossed the road near us. I believe it was the same buck I had seen earlier.

Bob and I returned to show my mother before taking the deer to my home to hang up, skin and clean some. The cold temperatures will keep the meat fresh until I get to cutting it up for future meals.

As my custom, I give thanks for the deer and respect to the deer.

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A Surprise for Big John

First of all I have never met John. He is a dear friend of a dear friend of mine. My friend is Randy Tost. Randy has had John come to stay at his abode to hunt deer. This has become their tradition now for a number of years.

Randy is a unique fellow. He is special. He is a retired teacher with oodles of great traits. Kindness is just one of them!  Another positive trait is thoughtfulness.           

The Painted Egg


Close up- Tost photo

   Earlier this fall, Randy contacted me about an idea he had for a surprise gift for John. Indeed, the idea was an interesting one. It seems last spring Randy and John discovered the remnants of a turkey nest. The turkeys were gone but the eggs’ shells remained minus the newly hatched poults. Randy gathered a couple of the shells that were almost complete in shape. (Except where the peep removed itself)

Randy and "his" egg

   The egg shells, at his home, eventually gave Randy the idea of painting something on the shell as a gift. He mixed plaster-of-Paris and carefully filled the void for strength. I told Randy the task was doable and the decision to paint a feather on it was made.  I painted a turkey feather on the shell and sprayed several coats of clear varnish on it.     

Moss-lined wooden box (Tost photo)


The gift was made now that John arrived to hunt. The secret remained until now. I understand John was “eggsited” with his unique gift!

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Pheasant Hunting


    I had a terrible night. Suzie, my Springer Spaniel, apparently had her diabetes “all messed up”. She had to go out six times to do her business. I was having dizzy spells. These scared me. I am thinking…mini-strokes??? Each of the five events lasted about five seconds and the earth shook violently. I have had these in the past. The doctor leans towards these spells as just part of my other issues of asthma; allergies; sinus issues, etc. So little sleep I had!

Chap Nebinger

   My friend, C.W.Nebinger (Chap) invited me on a pheasant hunt. As you may have surmised, I wasn’t feeling all that well yet and I was very tired. I struggled to get organized and off we went to hunt.

Chap, currently, has eight dogs. He raises English Setters and just loves training and hunting these beautiful dogs. This would be my first time hunting ring-necks over dogs in many, many years.                                                                            

We hadn’t went ten feet into a corn strip when the dogs pointed and the rooster flew out behind us. I hesitated for Chap to shoot since he invited me. I always believe if you are a guest the one who invites should get more the shots if possible. My intention was to try to get some good photos over actually harvesting any birds. Chap shouted for me to take the shot and I missed. The bird by this time was ranging rather far. (The best excuse I have.)

Dora on point!

  Shortly, The next point occurred and a hen flew up in front of me. I raised the shotgun and remembering the hens weren’t legal law of the past I lowered the gun before realizing the hens are now legal! Chap realizing my hesitation shot and missed too. I missed one more and I needed some “redemption.” (My second excusefor a miss was the fact I was using a borrowed shotgun.)               

The next couple of hours produced more birds and Chap ended up with 4 pheasants and I shot two. (FYI: I didn’t miss again!) We, also, saw some quail and deer.

Freckles on point

   Chap’s two dogs of the day were, Dora and Freckles. They are good dogs that were totally absorbed in the hunt. They love it!

I arrived home and cleaned my two birds. Suzie enjoys sniffing around when I bring game home to clean. I was down trying to rest by 2:45 and I woke up at 7:00P.M. As I write this entry I seem to be improving.         

One happy little pooch!

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Fog over Mahoning Creek

   I, once again, went to State Game Lands 287 in Armstrong County to try my hand at walking up on a bear. The rains began early and maintained a steady pace for most of the morning.       

Praying Mantis egg case

The first critter I saw was a small rack buck. he walked by me and my camera was in my shoulder pack to avoid as much rain as possible. I failed with some potential great photos of several flocks of geese too.


   I walked slowly along the side of the hill through an area with lots of grapevines. Some years ago, I walked onto a bear resting spot in    this same area. the bear went out ahead of me. The bear had hollowed out a depression at the base of a fallen tree.

Eventually my hunt crossed a road into an area of the lands I had never been in before. I love exploring new haunts! My plans were to walk parallel again to the road but on the northern side of a steep hollow. This site has plenty pf rhododendron and hemlock trees and scattered vine thickets.    

Pileated Woodpecker holes

Alone this trek I walked into a flock of turkeys and saw various deer and grouse too. The ticks were more prevalent today too. I picked over twenty and destroyed in my rubbing alcohol “broth”.

I crossed the road again and the rains were really beginning to soak through my clothes. My plan was to sneak along a clear-cut area and then move farther downslope and sneak back towards the car. My walk was good for I watched a buck stand up about 25 yards from me. The wet forest floor allowed quiet stalking. This was the same buck I seen earlier. This time he allowed me to gather my camera for a few photos. Fog would come and go throughout the morning too.      

As I approached the road near my car I saw a number of vehicles in a line heading towards Widnon, Pennsylvania. I drove in that direction and saw vehicles and hunters positioning themselves for a big drive. Later I stopped across MahoningCreek to view some beautiful sites and heard 6 shots from where they were driving for bear. I had walked through one side of this hollow earlier. However, my style is to catch a bear for a shot not to scare out. Bear drives are the most productive method for hunting the critters.  I prefer sneaking around…I am weird that way!                                                       



Mahoning Creek

I debated going back out, but decided to head home and dry out.

I saw over ten ring-necked roosters in two different flocks today. That sure brought back some good memories.  They are such a beautiful bird!


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2011 Bear Season



  November 19th 2011 was the first day of the Pennsylvania black bear season. I had a plan from some years ago and this day I finally tried the idea for reality. The area I decided to try hunting this day was State Game Lands 287 north of the communities of Templeton and Mahoningin Armstrong County.     

Railroad bridge over the Allegheny River

This area has rough and treacherous terrain. Steep river hills with some areas clear-cut in past years. The briars and brush from the clear cut makes for terrific bear habitat albeit difficult for the lone bear hunter to hunt.

    I decided to climb a river hill in the pre-dawn hours. The elevation here is 1400 feet, steep with rocks ready to take off under a man’s weight. I had to be extremely careful. I need to remind myself of my age once in a while!


  Once on top I waited to see what would be the first critter to see. A buck walked down slope to me and looked at the new mass for a few seconds before continuing along the hill’s side. I, too, began to work my plan. I edged about 1/3 way down from the top of the ridge and began a slow sneak peering in all directions. I had hoped any bear feeding in distant fields might use this course of travel. The plan worked.. sort of! I found two piles of fresh bear stool as I walked. the bear apparently used the  contours over night. They had been eating various seeds and some corn.            

I walked a long time even into mountain laurel thickets. I eventually made my way back and started  up slope. I saw two more does and a grouse and three squirrels. I heard a raven with its raspy call.

Mahoning Creek Valley

  With the day winding down I made my way back towards the car. This too was a steep clear-cut area.This trek was rough going as briars ripped along my legs. This is a great place for bear. I may go back here come Monday especially if we get the rain. That would make for some quiet sneaking.                      

The Allegheny River

This evening I ache!!!!!!!

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Good News Country

The country-style gospel band called, “Good News Country” played their first“gig” last Sunday evening, November 13th. The performance was at the Templeton Church of God. This was our first time playing out together with these band members. We were all nervous and it showed. The patrons didn’t notice the nervousness since many great compliments were expressed afterwards.

Dick Vernon

The 5-piece gospel band had only practiced together twice. This caused uncertainties. Personally, I was more concerned over any of us forgetting something in regards to a specific song. This causes musicians to hold back a lot, at least, this causes me to react in that way. I sensed my failure to play as well as intended to due to such thoughts. Again, the people present had only kind words to say!

Danna Vernon

  Present band members are Dick Vernon. Dick has played steel guitar for many years. He performed on various radio stations when live music was the norm. he worked at the Wheeling Jamboree in times past. His wife Danna Vernon does vocals and organizes the song selections for any given performance. These two reside near Herman, Pennsylvania.

Brad Anthony plays the bass guitar and does vocals with the band. He and his wife, Carolyn live in Clarion County, Pennsylvania north of New Bethlehem.               

Brad Anthony


Al Mechling

   Newest member is Al Mechling. Al plays  guitar and does vocals. Al and his wife Marla live in       Butler County, Pennsylvania. Al has a business named “Mechling Bookbindery” The web site is: www.mechlingbooks.com.  (If you look real close you might find my book entitled, “The Attack On Kit-Han-Ne.” Al published my book. I learned he played guitar and sang only this August.


  I, Larry Smail, play lead guitar with the band. I, also, carry on with Dick when we play. That is about all I am good for!

The band will continue to polish up and fine tune our abilities as we become more acquainted with each other’s styles. Come on out and see us sometime.

We will be playing at the Distant Baptist Church on November 20th beginning at 6:30 this Sunday.

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Dancing feather

Bob and I decided to spend some time in search of turkeys this fine autumn day. We both needed to keep the hunt to a half day at the most for I needed to play music later on.

I left Bob up-slope to listen while I continued on through the pre-dawn darkness. I needed to arrive along the crest of a hollow to listen and, hopefully, locate some turkeys for Bob to hunt. A grouse exploded within feet of me and after the initial startle I know I smiled at the thought of being through the same scenario many times and I react the same each time.

As daylight enveloped the surroundings I heard a few yelps despite the road noise and breezy conditions. I eased toward the suspected site and heard the birds again. I hastened my pace only to hear two birds flush farther down over. Of  course, I hurried towards the flush site expecting to see and hear more. Now the usual thoughts begin to sink in…were there more birds that flushed earlier or were there only two turkeys???

   Headless deer (almost)   I picked up Bob and we sat for an hour but failed to hear any turkeys to my calling attempts. As I sat and listened I observed a turkey feather fluttering from a low limb. The breeze caused the feather to dance wildly at times.


Deer ticks!

  Bob and I circled some known feeding areas but still we continued on not finding any birds. Bob was ready to head towards the car and by 10:00 we were shaking our hunting clothes out to eliminate possible ticks. Speaking of ticks…I HATE THEM! I removed over 50 ticks from my clothes this day and we were only out a short time.  Later while almost to Bob and mom’s home I felt one crawling near my eye and found a few more on the seat covers. Like I said…I HATE TICKS! I carried a small bottle with rubbing alcohol in it. I gathered and placed the ticks in the bottle. This gives me a sense of satisfaction, I guess!



  All in all, I had about 10 deer sightings. I saw a red fox and only one squirrel. I heard and saw two v-shaped flocks of swans. Swans have a unique sound. They do not sound the same as Canada geese. I kicked out a woodcock too. This is becoming a rarer sight in Pennsylvania as the years go on.

I shook out my clothing over the tub upon returning home and showered. No Ticks!


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A Day at the Museum

     I had the opportunity to spend the day at the Armstrong County Historical and Genealogy Museum in Kittanning, Pennsylvania. Valerie Jack brought her 8th grade classes to the Native American Room at the museum. The teacher is just completing her educational lessons concerning the French & Indian War and the events of that war in our local area of Kittanning and some surrounding sites.

My task at hand is to further enhance some of the events that occurred. I, also, spend time discussing weaponry, war tactics of the time, cultural living and apparel.  I, of course, was dressed as an 18th century longhunter/militia member of those times.

The Native American Room features various native items throughout the small room including paintings of petroglyphs (rock carvings) from north of Kittanning along the Allegheny River. The classes seemed intrigued with the possible descriptions as to what each carving may have represented.

Close-up of Eastern native knife sheath/ knife

I wish to thank Valerie  Jack and her students patience with me despite my nervousness. They are a tough audience. They can see through any attempts to be non-factual on my part!

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a  chance to take photos of the class members for this site.

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Victorian Tea Party

    Saturday I attended a Victorian Tea Party. Not to drink tea but to display the painting, “THE WHEATFIELD-WHIRLPOOL OF DEATH.” The event was held at the Trinity United Methodist Church at Indiana, Pennsylvania. The hosts for the event were members of the Sons of the Union Veterans; John T. Crawford Camp #43 and the Sara A. Crawford Auxiliary. This event was being held as a fund-raising effort for the project of erecting a memorial entitled “REST ON ARMS.”           

The Rest On Arms Memorial idea was actually formulated shortly after the Civil War ended by the vets of that time. Several attempts to raise funds early on failed. The Crawford Camp intend to finish the dreams! The proposed statue/memorial will be erected in the Indiana community.

You can read more on this important project by visiting:  www.restonarms.wordpress.com

Terry Greene-master fiddler!

  Approximately 80 tea-drinkers attended the two-hour event. Lots of cookies were created by the ladies of the auxiliary.(Some of which entered my internal parts.)

   A Civil War era fashion show completed the event as many of the ladies spotlighted their varied 19th century apparel.

Unfortunately, the painting was far from the interests of most of those in attendance. Also, I lost my watch. Despite these setbacks I enjoyed the event too. Seeing friends  and learning more of the times of the Civil War! 

Tea anyone?

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State Game Lands 137

     Early Friday morning, I made the decision to head to state Game Lands 137 near New Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I needed to walk some game land roads and take some photos; look for bear sign and maybe get a ringneck pheasant

Ringneck track and .410 shotshell for comparison

or a couple of squirrels. As often is the case, the hunt becomes secondary on my excursions.  

I spent half a day traveling roads; high walls and some woodland areas. I didn’t see any bear sign, but I did see a number of deer and a couple of grouse. I met up with a well-tender and we had a great conversation about, you guessed it…hunting!

     The fall foliage, although past peak, is still very beautiful to me. In fact, I think I enjoy the past peek woodlands better. The stark contrasts between the fall color and leafless trees is beautiful.               

Since I walked roads a lot I didn’t see nearly the ticks I have while staying entirely in the woods. However, I still removed about 20 of them throughout the morning. Todays’ experiment consisted of placing them in rubbing alcohol. This killed the little pests rather quickly! Another interesting sighting I have known about for a number of years is a great-blue heron rookery located on a high ridge.  The heron is a wetland bird standing rather tall on long legs. This nesting site is not near any water! Why the birds have chosen this site puzzles me. I have seen many nests and herons at times. The high winds of recent months may have removed some nests.  

Heron nests


The shotgun

  The firearm of choice this morning was an old Harrington and Richardson (H&R) .410 single shot shotgun. My father purchased this gun for me for $15.00 for my second year of hunting. The previous year I had used my Uncle Carl Smail’s .410 and my dad dcided I needed my own. The family had removed the firing pin from the gun sice a family member had been talking sucidal thoughts. They failed to mention that to my dad on the Friday he received it. The following morning I missed an easy shot on a grouse when a “click” was all that was heard. (Unfortunately the person managed to complete the deed at a later time.)  

   I used this gun for a number of years until my growth and a sear issue causwed me to lay it aside. A few years back my cousin, Donnie Smail repaired the gun and the first shot from it bagged a grouse.

Partridge berry

  Like I said the woods are beautiful and the great weatherfurther enhanced the day afield.  

Deer bed

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