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Winter Escape

Late last year (2022) I began sketching some ideas down for a Whitetail Deer painting. The plan was to work on a number of thoughts and being finalized by early January. The plan fell in place on the time schedule. Laurie was scheduled to have a food surgery on January 17th. I imagined I would work on the art while being near to help as needed. However, since I quit hunting with the flintlock early, I began the painting process for the above completed painting.

I made a number of “thumbnail” sketches. The thumbnail is an artist term used to make small sketches or thoughts. These thumbnails are studied until a direction is finalized within the thoughts. I made around six or seven of those thumbnails,

The thumbnail I decided to work the plan on. This sketch is around 4 by 6 or so.

After the thumbnail idea is decided on, I then think about what size the finished art is to be. The original size was 16 by 20. However, once I sketched the rough to that size and deemed my concept was “crushed” mush too much and elected to the size of 16 by 24. What that term of crush means here is that the drawing was too busy within the space. the 16 by 24 allowed to put my desires in the painting and not having the details to be lost with the elements of the painting. BUT… I happened to have a frame of 16 by 23 on hand so I shortened the length by an inch and adjusted the sketch as needed.

Notice some changes here with some rough ideas of farm buildings.

I began actually painting earlier this month of January and finished it rather quickly.

Another rough sketch drawn to size. Notice the varying ideas being adjusted on the two.

It is up to viewer to decide what the deer are escaping from. Was it a human? Was it a coyote? was it a much bigger buck challenging this buck? It is up to you!

I was unsuccessful during the flintlock season. However, I should not have been unsuccessful. Something has happened to me as I aged. Readers of my blog know of the sighting issues I have had in recent years, and I had taken steps to try to curtail those problems. I am going to take the long barreled flinter to the range under extremely controlled conditions to rule things out in regard to the sights. I have lost confidence in my abilities, and I am thinking the loss of confidence has affected my psyche. I am believing my issue is in my head telling me I am going to fail, and I do. Whatever, three misses that should not have been misses caused to quit hunting this year. Also, dealing with health issues with my mother and stepfather has me feeling down.

With all of this being said I did have some interesting events unfold while hunting. I will include a few here for my personal journal remembrance. First of all, I saw a lot of deer! I saw a flock of turkeys, a couple of rabbits, fisher tracks, lots of squirrels and various other small wildlife.

One day behind my homestead, I saw five bucks running together. They were out of range, but I went at an angled and circled around and crept upon them to about forty-five yards. I was bringing up the rifle on one I deemed legal because I could easily count the legal points, as per Pennsylvania law, when the buck spotted me. I froze, but he and the others walked off and crossed a township road into posted properly. I would have missed anyway, no doubt.

One day, I stalked a feeding doe. I was closing the gap when she began walking towards me. I eased Old Jacob out from behind the tree and shot only to see the doe standing. She walked off turned and returned. I had reloaded behind the tree and missed again. I was frustrated.

I crept into a wooded area and sat down to watch one morning. Shortly I could see a doe feeding towards me. She bedded down. Too far for me to shoot, but close enough I could see her chewing her cud. The doe eventually put her head on the ground to sleep. Isat for almost three hours and I was shivering at times and cramping up. I decided to crawl while her head was down to close the gap. I hadn’t moved far when her head came up again. I froze. After a bit she arose from her bed and began to walk towards me again, but gradually moved away at an angle. Interesting to be part of, to say the least.

The day I quit hunting found me watching four deer, one being a six-point buck. The buck was nice but illegal, so I eased my camera out of my shoulder bag to attempt a photo if he allowed for it. Meanwhile, a doe that had walked at an angle out of site returned and walked close to me at about forty yards or so. I missed. I spent an hour and a half searching to make sure. The decision to abort the became reality.

The future of my flintlock hunting has many opened-ended questions and concerns for me to resolve. I really do enjoy the flintlock season and hope with some range work and possibly some soul searching, I can resume next season as a new and confident hunter.

The man in the above photo has been a friend for a number of years. I believe we first met some years ago after the formation of the Kit-Han-Ne Local Chapter of the Pennsylvania Wild Turkey Federation. With time I became less active in the organization, but Bill still stayed on fulfilling various positions and committees. We worked together a long time with local chapter banquets, too.

Late last year I received a message of Bill’s son, Greg about the painting, “LAUREL FLUSH.” Greg wanted to surprise his father with the original painting for his birthday. Discussion followed and Greg recently picked up the painting.

Laurel Flush has found a home and I am pleased to see the painting was received by Bill. The son said Bill was surprised and a few tears of emotion were viewed. As the artist, I can’t ask for much more than such reactions. Thank you, Greg and happy birthday, Bill.

Our 2022 Christmas

Mother, Ruth all with smiles

Our 2022 Christmas had me facing mixed emotions. My mother, Ruth, now at 93 years of age is dealing with dementia-like symptoms, and this proves to be difficult for me at times. My stepfather, Bob Miller has been dealing with cancer for three years. Both are losing weight. So, I can’t help wondering how many Christmas get-togethers we all will have.

Anyway, we had a nice day together opening gifts, including our dog, Trixie. She loves to rip apart gift packaging and chasing red laser lights. Her antics brought many smiles. Sister, Ruthie sported a nice set of antlers. We had plenty to eat, as well!

Mother and Laurie. Laurie hates getting her photo taken.

Passing On Deer

I haven’t hunted deer much this season, however, the days I have been out I have seen deer and passed on shots a lot. Since my goal was makin’ meat, I am looking for good shots to take on medium sized deer. With my age I am not looking forward to dragging a two-hundred pounder. For instance, Friday December 9, I literally passed on small deer five times with ranges of 25-to 35 yards. Come flintlock season maybe I won’t be as picky. Laurie is to have surgery and has been told she is to not do anything for two weeks after the cut.

A few short stories of this day’s hunt. I was sneaking on a flat between two slopes when I saw a deer coming. I moved into position beside a tree. The little deer came so close that I jumped at her to scare her to educate. She jumped and ran a short distance to stare.

Later I sat down in an open area among White Pines. I watched a small deer feeding. The little button buck bedded down with a great range. While seeing this event happen, I noticed another deer feeding from in front of me. This deer was small, but she allowed for a bunch of pics.

Another example was a little deer from my right at twenty yards. With camera in hand, I was about to face a dilemma. About ten yards behind this little deer came a mature doe and I couldn’t move. The doe’s head went behind a tree, and I lowered the camera. By the time I got the rifle up the deer had moved to about fifty yards. I was planning the shot when I saw her ears funneling towards my right again. The button buck was walking past me. He was bleating. Any shot on the doe was lost. Oh well, I was enjoying all the other action.

Later I sat down at the head of a big hollow. About eighty yards to my right was posted property. Two deer showed up and it appeared they may come right to me. She spotted something about me and began staring. Eventually the two began walking again going at an angle below me. Shooting at this time would, probably, have the deer run over the steep slope into posted property so I waited for a better shot. A third deer showed up and the doe went to that deer. They came to about fifty yards below me with her still staring at me. Suddenly, the third deer began snorting for my scent was drifting down. They all went back into the posted property.

I would see other deer some were small ones and some too far to identify with certainty.

Crossbow bolt I found.

I was talking to a young mother last week. She told me of her young son hitting a buck with his crossbow on nearby property. This happened in archery season. I found this bolt and sent her a photo, and this was the shaft her son was using. I returned the shaft.

The first day of the 2022 Pennsylvania deer season found me heading home empty-handed. Yes, I saw some deer and even saw an illegal buck, but no shot materialized. I knew I had to be extra careful with my shots for I saw a small spike buck during the early muzzleloading season. I even had the hammer cocked and firearm aimed. Luckily my patience saw the four- or five-inch, pencil diameter spikes. I was watching for a racked buck but by the afternoon I would have taken a doe if the shot was a good one.

Today the third day of the season found me in my haunts willingly ready to shoot a doe. I would see twenty-three deer by the end of the hunt. One adult doe came extremely close to becoming hamburger. I spotted her while still hunting at about forty yards. She squatted to urinate as I anxiously tried to determine first if the deer was a big enough one for harvest and not the spike.

Unfortunately, she was on the other side of some downed limbs. I clicked the safe off of the rifle and slowly drifted to my right to open up the vital areas. As I raised the rifle she suddenly turned and saw me and jumped away.

Fox Squirrel, one of four I saw in two days.

Later I spotted a deer feeding ahead. I stalked the deer and spotted the deer at about forty-five yards. I could not tell with certainty of any head ornaments. The deer fed slowly away, and I circled around hoping to get ahead for a clear look. I walked to about twenty-eight yards and in those seconds, I still wasn’t sure enough to shoot. Hard to believe!

I was heading to watch a feeding area and saw three deer feeding. patience would be the answer in this hunt. One was a half-racked buck and a big deer. I lost sight of them due to terrain contours. A flock of swans flew over.

I waited behind some pine tree trunks watching the feeding area. Suddenly, a deer came into view just ahead. I prepared to shoot. The deer was about fifteen yards and must have winded me. The deer bolted in reverse and turned in front of me in open area. the deer stopped. the forty-three-yard shot was good. The deer collapsed about twenty-five yards.

The deer was actually a buck. The antlers were about one inch along and exposed. The weight was around 110 to 120 pounds.

Fortunately, the landowner told me I could drive across the field to get as close as I can to any harvested deer. That is great. This old pooper has some fears with long deer driving. I backed down a gas line and got to within thirty yards of the downed deer.

Bear claw marks on a Beech Tree.

The 2022 Bear Season

Armstrong County had snow for the first day of the 2022 Pennsylvania Black Bear season. That is a rare thing! I decided to hunt an area with a mile long hollow with clear cut acreage. My plan was simple enough. get in the area and before daylight and search for bear tracks in the hollow or crossing the hollow. Unfortunately, the plan didn’t work for no tracks were observed.

I pondered the bear season this year. I have been seeing very little mast crops in the woodlands. That fact often, instinctively, makes bear “hole up” early. The lone bear hunter has bear hunting tough enough and this situation may make the hunting harder.

One of three flocks of swans I heard and viewed flying over.

I ended up tramping ninety-eight percent of the seven hours in the woods. I never found a track.

I did see some deer and pheasants.

I didn’t hunt Sunday and Monday of the bear season. However, Tuesday had me fighting an urge to go out again.

I was surprised upon seeing snow on northern slopes. Anyplace shielded from the sun held some snow pockets. I found rather fresh bear tracks and began to employ strategies hoping to find it. I had major issues due to the lack of snow on easterly and southern slopes. I still hunted the woods watching below and ahead. This wasn’t easy for the infamous Multiflora Roses brambles were very common. being quiet was not going to happen anytime I was in the masses.

Although indistinct this is a bear track.

Eventually I circled across the hollow back to a northern slope. I found the bear’s tracks again. the bruin was heading low along the creek bottom. What a tangled mess!

As you might expect the tracks left the snow area while the last tracks were heading onto the southern and snowless slope, My bear hunt ended.

The snow was gone to the left of the photo. This is the creek bottom where the tracks were lost.

I saw some deer and found turkey tracks…approximately ten birds.

Gobblers Galore

NOVEMBER 4

I parked the jeep and began the walk along a township road. It was very black out, but in the sky was the constellation, Orion, the hunter. I wondered where any turkeys might be located along the hillside running alongside the road. I crossed a tributary to Cherry Run and worked a right-a-way towards the top. The hillside is steep, but the right-a-way goes along diagonally up the hill almost to the top.

As I approached the top the obvious lighting of the pe-dawn moments could be easily noticed. I remembered a time when my stepfather, Bob Miller and I walked this very same journey. I remember stopping to allow him to get his breath and immediately saw a flock of turkeys just above us. He would get a gobbler later in the morning.

Interestingly, very close to this spot I heard a series of raspy putts. I had been seen from a roosted gobbler; I surmised due to the sound of the alarm putt. I continued to the top and circled behind where I heard the turkey. My intention at this time was to wait until I hear a bird and move quickly to break up the flock. The eastern horizon was beginning to move fast towards dawn, but I clucked anyway. I heard a response.

I set the shotgun down and was about to lower my shoulder bag in preparation for a breakup when three gobblers opened up to my right but down over the hill. My bad decision was about to happen. I moved towards the gobblers instead of trying for a break. I went a short distance and called, and gobblers began gobbling form both sites! I still could have broken up the first flock but decided to set down between to try to call in either flock. Could be an interesting hunt.

The gobbling continued on their own and to my calling. I felt confidence that something positive would happen, but I was wrong. The gobblers to my left flew down hill and moved to join the other gobblers to my right. However, I wasn’t aware of this initially so I quickly zig-zagged along the flats trying to locate and break.

I quickly returned and the birds to my right and they still answered my calls. I even heard a hen with them, too. I circled and came in from behind hoping to locate and break. The next time they answered my calling they had moved across the Cherry Run Road and the creek and were now gobbling and fighting like crazy low on the opposite hill.

I circled again, crossing the township and state roads and the creek. I moved at an angle before beginning to travel to my right and hopefully above them. I failed they had moved faster than I and had gone up and over the crest of the hill. I know this because I found scratchings and fecal matter. The top is posted.

I was disappointed with myself and failings to break up the early morning flock. I arrived back to the jeep with the noon hour approaching along with temperatures into the sixties. I was warm.

I saw some deer including the buck in the photo. I saw a beautiful Red Fox, too.

(DONNIE SMAIL)

My cousin, Donnie (a.k.a. Weasel) went hunting fall turkeys on the first morning of the 2022 Fall turkey Season. We haven’t been able to hunt much in the last few years due to issues in his life preventing our get together hunts. Unfortunately, Donnie would need to leave around ten o’clock for a needed task.

We met in the dark deciding on a plan to hunt these morning hours. I would go to the end of the field, and he would stop at mid-point. We were going to listen for roosting birds in the woodlands below the field.

At my position a number of crows began cawing early. Maybe they had an owl in their sights. However, I called periodically and at one point I thought I may have heard a reply of yelps way down the hill. The din of cawing birds made a positive identification slim. However, I met up with Donnie and told him I was going down over and work towards him hoping to find a flock. I failed to find any birds.

I was surprised to find the carcass of a gobbler. Of course, I wondered what had happened to the bird.

(Gobbler remains)

Later I saw an immature Bald Eagle flying past. I was lucky to capture a pic.

After my cousin left, I went to the hillside across a township road. I walked upon a flock of gobblers. I tried for a break. I sat and called and listened for two hours and decided to call it a day.

(Immature Bald Eagle)

MONDAY, OCTOBER 31

I watched the weather closely and rain was happening but supposed to slack off early. believing the weatherman, I took off. I reached the top of the hill when the rain began. The water fell for two hours completely soaking the hunt. That was alright for I needed to stop at my mother’s home and try to make temporary repairs on her car that my sister wrecked. I then followed the car around to get work planned for repairs.

(American Chestnut)

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 1

I arrived extra early for the climb to the top was along trek. I reached to listening point and heard nothing. However, once I called the turkey chatter became common. the birds were on the roost but low on the side of a very steep hill. My dilemma was to try to call them all in after they left the roost or move in down the slope on very wet leaves. I decide to not try going for a breakup. This was a bad decision with hindsight.

Once I realized my initial plan was not going to happen, I circled and went down slope at an angle believing I would soon run into them. I reached the bottom of the hollow and began a diagonal trek in an attempt to find the birds. I met another turkey hunter and we chatted some. He didn’t see them walking through anywhere. He had to go home, and I continued with my plan. I didn’t go very far when I saw an archer in the tree. I apologized and aborted my plan to continue on.

I went the opposite way in case my gut feeling was incorrect. No birds!

(A huge flock of Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds must have stretched a quarter of a mile.)

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 2

I made the steep trek up the hill hoping to locate the turkeys again. I would fail to see or hear any turks. I did see a coyote. Most of the morning was very foggy.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 3

This was to be a short morning to hunt. I stopped at my mothers to take care of the garbage before going hunting. I tramped around searching for turkeys. I spotted a blackness about eighty yards or so ahead of me and quickly realized I was seeing a gobbler. There would be five of them. I called and received a few answers, but they wouldn’t come downslope through the Multiflora Rose. They began to work away, and I knew I had to try for a break.

I laid the shotgun and shoulder bag on the ground along with my hat and outer camo top. I slowly moved uphill until the one tom spotted me and started to react, I was had. I took off as fast as an asthmatic, old fart could go. The birds stayed together moving over the crest and across a field behind a home. The hunt was over.

I returned to my mother’s home for brunch and eventually take my sister to the bank and car repair shop. The car, although not completed, was now ready to drive.

(Remains of an old stone fence)

I was blessed to hear Screech Owls three times so far. I saw lots of deer, squirrels and even several rabbits.

QUIET TIME #2

Earlier this year I released an instrumental CD called Quiet Time. The initial reasoning as to making this instrumental was for a song to be lightly played during a prelude to prayer during church services. Interest arose and some wanted to obtain copies of the CD.

Quiet Time #2 is the second release of fourteen songs of faith for the quiet time prelude to prayer.

I play all instruments on the CD including all string instruments and piano and keyboards. The production takes some time considering various songs may have double digit tracks for completion.

Anyone interested in acquiring a CD contact me at Larry Smail, 481 Butler Road, Kittanning, PA 16201. I am seeking a ten-dollar donation. Shipping, please, add an additional five dollars.