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Archive for November, 2014

DSC_0011   Thanksgiving evening as we set around holding our bellies, my step father, Bob and I anxiously watched the weather. We were planning to hunt turkeys the following morning so we hoped for a good coating of snow.

Small buck

Small buck

The forecast was the snow was to be flurries only. I was hopeful tomorrow we would find tracks and the birds easily. There was an hour and a half of evening time when the snow was sparse. I was grateful we had that time frame for turkeys to move around prior to going to the roost. They can make a lot of tracks within that time.

Deer bed

Deer bed

The plan was to start a diagonal cut across the woodlands with me maneuvering with zigzags to cover a lot of territory and find those tracks. However, the plans were to be changed for the expected flurries overnight had become enough to cancel out any evening tracks. the plan, now, was to do the same, but my zigs were going to need to cover much more land than my zags.                                                                                                             DSC_0015

Everywhere I walked deer were present. Bob saw some too. I kept him on the flatter ground as much as possible as I watched for birds or tracks. We met up occasionally to alter plans as needed. He was to stay high and return towards a certain area as I walked around over the sides.

DSC_0004  I turned to make a change in direction and there were turkeys and close. I hollered and moved as fast as I dared. Some turkeys flew and others ran. I knew I had not the best of breaks, but I located Bob, and the eighty year old, had to, quickly, walk down over the hill’s side now.        DSC_0013

We set up and after a bit of time elapsed I began calling. We, later, heard the yelps to our left. The bird answered a couple of times. we waited. I had great concerns of the contrast of Bob and I against the white snow. I had  white camo, but Bob didn’t so we sat up among some fallen tree tops. The hen came in and began to sharply putt… her alarm call! We sat for over an hour and I failed to have anymore turkeys respond. Maybe if we could have waited longer??? We froze out and started the trek up and over and to the vehicle.

We had been in the woods for almost four hours. I saw a flock of turkeys; lots of deer and a great-horned owl. It was a good morning! (more…)

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Clear cut state game lands

Clear cut state game lands

The entire morning had a sensation of gloominess. The air was still and a definite feel of snow was certain.

A small, but, legal buck.

A small, but, legal buck.

I chose to hunt the last morning at State game Lands 137 near New Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I have had a number of bear experiences at these lands.

I slowly still-hunted up a long hollow surrounded with steep sides. The area had been clear cut in recent times. Tree top and briars and young trees covered the terrain making for some good bear habitat. Next year the lands will be better for bear.

DSC_0028  The slow walk and watch style of hunting failed to produce any bear, but deer were common. I heard and saw a raven too. I did find two piles of past bear evidence along the brushy area. I estimated the bear had done their deed, at least, a week ago, possibly longer. The break down of the material proved that to me.                              DSC_0038

Acorns, beechnuts and autumn olive berries were non-existent. Every place I had been this fall while hunting bear and turkeys had this fact easily learned. The oak and olive produced blossoms. I believe the large amount of rain we had in late spring and summer may have ruined the crop locally. This, I believe, “holed up” the bear early.

My pocket Constitution and Bill of Rights copy.

My pocket Constitution and Bill of Rights copy.

Milkweed seed pod

Milkweed seed pod

A couple of flakes slowly drifted through the trees at 10:15 A.m. and fifteen minutes later the snow was falling fast and laying on the ground. I walked around most of the morning. However, I did stop and started to read a Constitution booklet. I have had this tradition every bear and/or deer season for  the last five or six years. I often carry other reads if the weather allows for it.

I quit hunting by around noon and headed home. The lack of bear sign and my thinking  of the critters denning up seemed highly probable to me.  A solitary hunter would need to almost tramp on a bear to move it from such cover.

Beginning of the snow.

Beginning of the snow.

Skunk cabbage is dormant until March!

Skunk cabbage is dormant until March!

The previous day, I dogged for a friend and landowner and another individual for half a day. They, both, have health issues that limit hunting activity. His property failed to yield the mast needed for bear as well. I did see a number of deer while chasing the brush for bear.                  DSC_0041

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Silvery frost on everything.

Silvery frost on everything.

Granted I don’t become too enthralled with harvesting a black bear. I, however, do go through some of the motions of a bear hunter and that is I have a license and I have a rifle. Having taken bear before I now realize the work removing the animal from the forest can be a chore. I am a solitary hunter for the most part. I enjoy getting out into the woods to take photos and see wildlife and taking a bear is less on my priority.                                     DSC_0010

The landowners are friends of mine. He has had some bear issues over the summer with his bee hives. I thought, maybe, I could help. Three events caused me pause with hunting. One was the lack of acorns in this area. The second was that all the neighboring corn fields had just been harvested and third was the cold weather we have been having. I felt, at least, some of the sows may have been denning up due to these activities. A solitary hunter has decreased chances with such events during these times.

 

Note flash in deer's eyes!

Note flash in deer’s eyes!

This morning, I walked from the jeep into single digit temperatures. The eastern skyline was pink and the western skyline was yielding to a cloud bank. Freezing rain and rain were being forecasted and warming temperatures. The leaves were crunchy, A slight trace of snow was present on the hemlock-laden northern slope I was hunting. There was  not enough to effectively track, but just enough to aid in visibility in places.                                                                                                               DSC_0009

I slowly walked down hill and was fortunate to hear a few turkeys on the roost. Later, I would hear another flock yelping and cutting and gobbling. I heard a raven flying over the hollow as well. These birds seem to be increasing in our area.

I saw a lot of deer including several buck. I managed some photos in the gloom. I still-hunted most of the morning only stopping to set ,occasionally,  for twenty minutes or so. The cold was going deep into my old bones!

 

Old beaver sign

Old beaver sign

Mid morning began yielding to light rain. The rains picked up at times. Distant shooting was heard off and on all morning. Most of the shots were far north of where I was hunting.                                   DSC_0013

Approximately 1:00, or later, I was on a steep slope and found myself slipping. The falling rain was freezing on the surface.  I elected to move out. The landowner’s wife told me of friends on Route 28 coming from Pittsburgh were having road icing issues.

I checked the temperature to find 31 degrees. Five minutes later the temperature had dropped to 29 degrees. Although, I felt like staying out more I decided to call it a day for concerns of falling.

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DSC_0005The second week of Pennsylvania’s fall turkey season has concluded. My step-father, Bob and I managed to get out a few hours on a couple of occasions. Unfortunately, we failed to locate the meandering flocks.

Bob

Bob

Notice the rear quarters raise as the deer froze in position.

Notice the rear quarters raise as the deer froze in position.

We separated to try to hear birds on the roost. When that strategy failed I began a walk of the area with hopes of walking into a flock of birds or to receive an answer. All my walking failed as well. However, I did see a number of deer including some bucks.

Bear claw marks.

Bear claw marks.

We decided to try at an area near my homestead for an hour or so prior to going to the house for some grub. At this site I saw only deer.    Our second time out during this last week was a mid morning gathering. We entered and area where Bob harvested a young gobbler a few years ago. Turkey sign was sparse everywhere I ventured on these hills. Again, I saw a lot of deer including a couple of bucks. The first buck I saw was discovered as I eased over a ridgeline seeking turkeys. I immediately spotted this buck. he raised his rear legs up in the early stage of bolting. However, the deer stopped this motion when he discovered I was gazing into his eyes. his first reaction was to freeze.                                                                DSC_0010 DSC_0009   Later into the hunt I spotted another buck with a wide spread in antler width. the seven-point allowed a few photos, but brush and movement didn’t permit the best shots.                                                               DSC_0017 Some interesting sites of these two days were: Watched a squirrel gathering leaves for a nest; bear claw marks on beech trees; great-horned owl and a beech tree with a carving of JESUS SAVES. This was in a hollow I had not been in a quite a few years, at least that far. DSC_0001  My next hunting ventures will be sneaking around looking for a bear.

Wild grapes

Wild grapes

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Wednesday morning found Bob and I going separate ways again with hopes of hearing turkeys on the roost. We both failed! I began a call and walk approach to try to locate birds. The winds were not as bad, but enough of noise was present to make hearing far away birds impossible.

Notice the strong white bars on the tail feathers.

Notice the strong white bars on the tail feathers.

I slowly approached a crest on a hill to observe the back side and was disappointed to not see any turkeys. I then walked downslope  and walked below the hill’s rim and, later, as I came back up over I quickly noticed a turkey’s head drop and I immediately began to charge towards it. Five turkeys were in a mad dash up the slope as I hollered. I managed to get a slight break. Three birds went to my right and two went straight ahead. I couldn’t be positive of their gender, but, at least several appeared to be big birds.                        DSC_0032

I walked around looking for a good spot to set and call from. Tree tops littered the forest floor. No matter where I set I would only be able to see  in a few directions. I waited and later began calling loudly to overshadow the noise the best I could.

Forty-five minutes later I heard the loud “woody-like” putt of a gobbler. The turkey, you guessed it, came in  directly behind one of those tree tops. He was only about 15 yards from me and I just couldn’t get a shot. I decided to raised up and try to connect. The gobbler wouldn’t have anything of that blob against the tree (ME!) and soared off down the hill.

I remained another forty minutes or so calling. I began to get chilled from inactivity and the wind. Also, I wondered about Bob and decided to hit the brush and find him and, also, get warmed up.

I stood up and when I walked behind  to go over a slight rise in the terrain….you guessed it!  A second long beard took off. Neither bird uttered any sounds as is typical of older birds. They sneak in and watch. This bird was around 35 to 40 yards at most from where I had been calling from!!!!!!

I located Bob and we decided to go to another place for a short time before going home for leaf mulching. We saw another turkey fly across the trail. I saw deer and squirrels.

This morning I elected to hunt close to my homestead. I intended to make our family tradition of having breakfast with my mother, step father, Bob and my sister Ruthie. I hunted to after 8:00 while being blasted with rain. I saw a number of deer and squirrels and an owl, but I didn’t hear or see any turkeys.

After breakfast and my clothes in the dryer, I just couldn’t stand setting and off I went again to see if I could locate a nice bird. I returned to where I had hunted the day earlier and began a walk and call strategy.

DSC_0034 About an hour into the hunt I came upon some fresh turkey scratchings. I walked some more and peered into a field and saw ten deer feeding.  A short distance further I saw turkey heads moving out in an area with pines and multiflora rose. I started into this mess to break them up and had to stop. I noticed several birds within range beginning to run and I had my 2014 fall gobbler. The tom was a gobbler of the year with a short beard.

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DSC_0008    Saturday, November 1, was the first day of Pennsylvania’s fall turkey season and I quit around noon! Memories of last year’s leg issue plagued me so I opted to not push too hard until I realized if any concerns might be present. (I spoke of the issues last year in various entries.)

Those beautiful beech in autumn glory!

Those beautiful beech in autumn glory!

My step father, Bob ad I failed to locate any turkeys on the roost. We, also, failed to find any throughout the morning’s walks. However, I did see plenty of deer, including several bucks. The rut is definitely on as they chased their girlfriends around! Monday, the second day started off very different. I told Bob to walk a gradual ascending gas well road and watch the tree-line for roosted turkeys. This would be easier for him since he is eighty years old!  I went elsewhere to do the same.

DSC_0017    Time hadn’t moved along much when Bob contacted me of 5-6 turkeys flying from the trees across the road and hollow. I hurried over and saw two birds fly off. I suspected two of the original birds landed again.

DSC_0016 We set up and tried calling. I wasn’t feeling very confident since the birds all flew in the same direction. One needs a good break of the flock to call them back. We did hear some yelps across the road. I would later chase the bird from the tree. We eventually gave up and began hunting around searching for these birds or others. I saw plenty of deer again with some bucks as well. I, also, saw a grouse and porcupine. DSC_0011

Shortly before noon, I approached a crest on the hollow and spotted a turkey . Surprisingly, the bird, at about fifty yards, didn’t see me. The sun was directly behind me and in it’s eyes. I eased to behind a tree. I removed my orange vest and hat and placed orange behind me a few feet back. As I peered through the V of the tree trunks, I noticed about four birds preening. The hazel made seeing them difficult.

I tried a few very soft calls, but they were busy settling their feathers. I continued watching when the turkeys started feeding. Other birds became visible. I called again and clucks and yelps resulted. I could, now, see ten to twelve turkeys feeding and occasionally moving towards me. I debated to charge and break them up, but thoughts of falling on the decline entered my mind. I waited.

DSC_0001 DSC_0026  Birds were at my range of about 38 to 40 yards at various times, but vegetation removed any chances. I felt my shot would come! Suddenly, mom moved straight up the hill and birds followed. Her head came up and that dreaded sound of an alarm putt was heard. She began moving away. I could not shoot at anytime because I would have taken multiple turkeys! She had seen the orange for 95% of me was behind the tree and I was motionless! I tried to break them up and most flew away together. However, once Bob reached me a lone hen came past us, but his shotgun wasn’t in position and mine was on the ground since I was trying to get him a shot. We saw another turkey fly out of a tree.

Later, I spotted a buck bedded down. I tried to get into a position for a great camera shot, but he wouldn’t have it. I did get a pic once he was up. We quit around two o’clock.

Tuesday, November 4th, found me , once again, trying to spot roosted birds along the eastern horizon. the winds and noise made hearing any roosted birds nearly impossible unless one was close. I hiked all around, but never saw a turkey. Where did they go? I spotted a buck standing and after a time, he bedded down, I back-stepped to avoid scaring him. I saw other deer as well. I went south and parked to hunt another area.

I walked and called along  the way. The wind made hearing almost impossible. I walked around an edge and spotted a mature gobbler about sixty yards away. We stared each other down when he and four other long bearded birds began to walk away. I instinctively moved a s quick as I dare and attempt breaking them up. They went over the side and when I came over I was only about 35 yards from them. they flew across the hollow together. I failed another breakup.                 DSC_0007 DSC_0025

The temps were up and I was tired and hot so I quit about 2:50.

Beautiful Pennsylvania!

Beautiful Pennsylvania!

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