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Archive for the ‘PA Bear Hunting’ Category

Fog, Snow and Rain

This second day of the 2018 Pennsylvania bear season proved to be another interesting day. My friend, Terry and I went to another area to check out  for bear.

A light rain could be viewed on the windshield between wiper blade activity However, rain was even lighter as I we traveled through the wee moments of the morning towards a clear-cut destination. I need to change the terminology to “old clear cut” for the trees have grown much since I first began hunting this area over twenty years ago.

Interestingly, the highest point of this area still had some snow cover in the woodlands. Enough snow was present to help with seeing, but not enough to effectively track any bear if we would have seen any bear. Approximately at seven thirty in the morning the snow began to fall. The white stuff fell all morning.

Also, dense fog was common for much of the morning. Between the fog and heavy falling snow we found visibility was greatly lessened.

At one pint I was moving down over a steep highwall to gain access to a big timber area with plenty of logs. I found out I wished I hadn’t made the decision to go down for a leaf-covered flat rock with wet slushy snow sent me off like a sled. My left knee caught on a tree trunk to stop me. Needless to say I had some pain issues.

  I eventually worked along the side of the hill and met up with Terry. We were ready to call the hunt a day. I was very wet and I didn’t realize how wet I was until I returned home. As I removed my coat and clothing I felt the heavy weight of water-logged attire.

I saw one deer and two ringneck pheasants throughout the morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The mile long walk to where we were going was done in mostly dark moments. My friend, Terry Williams and I decided to hunt this area after finding plenty of bear sign last Monday. This morning was much different than Monday with snow cover. One might think having snow cover was a good thing and mostly that would be true. However, this morning found everything covered with a layer of ice with snow on top. Visibility in many areas was ten or twelve feet so, unless one was in big timber areas minus a lot of low canopy trees.

  Trees were down everywhere within the area we were hunting. Gas well roads had numerous trees across the roads. Trees of many sizes were

Hard to see!

uprooted or broken from the weight of heavy snow and ice adding strong recent winds.  Trees and honeysuckle and Autumn Olive bent to the ground with heavy snow.

We heard trees cracking all morning. We saw limbs crashing to the forest floor. We saw trees coming down. Several times I took evasive actions upon hearing the snaps and crash of limbs. I was not in immediate danger for the closest limbs were twenty feet or so away.

I, personally, saw five deer. Most fresh deer sign was of beds with the deer sneaking out ahead of me. I saw one turkey and a rabbit.

Around 7:30 or so I head three distant shots. The shots were several hills over, but I wondered if Terry had shot. I was about a mile away and the shots seemed to be in his direction. I moved towards him.

We found where two bear had walked around, probably, sometime in the wee hours of Friday morning. We decided to follow them for the bear may be in brush close by. We, both, felt the shots may have been directed at the bear. I followed the tracks to a predicted corn field. We did not have access of this property. We soon saw a hunter watching the corn fields and we circled back around the hunter. I found additional old tracks and tried to unravel them, however, I believed the tracks were those of the same two bear. The tracks had melted, by this time, to hard to distinguish wet and gray slush areas. One needs to study many tracks to find the toe marks.

 

Bear track

Conditions had worsened with rising temperatures and the tress were raining water and snow all over us soaking into our clothes. By the time we   reached the entrance road we were getting wet and tired. We quit around one in the afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bittersweet berries

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Barberry

 

After staying home and raking and mulching leaves yesterday, I hit the trail this morning to hunt bear. To be honest, I called this hunt an exploratory hunt for I was traveling into new territory. I have been in a few areas of this same large tract of land, but today’s venture was to be new.

 

Black-capped Chickadee

I followed the ridgelines around the hollows periodically checking my topography map. I wasn’t still hunting in the strictest sense of this style of hunting, for I was walking more than standing. However, I did set down for a few minutes to eat some walnuts and drink some juice. I discovered a tree that offered a unique seat. I enjoyed the brief set to rest and eat.

This day had some light rain intermingled with snow flurries. Strong winds could be felt as well due to the wind chill. Because of this I could move very

Porcupine gnawings

quietly. I edged along a rim to spot a deer about fifteen yards away. I immediately saw the “horns.” However, I quickly realized something was amiss. The antler on the buck’s right side was down over his jaw. Something had happened obviously. Did this antler deformity occur due an early growth injury? Was the base of the skull damaged due to buck fighting?

As I stopped in my tracks I slightly moved a limb and the deer heard it, but didn’t see me. We played a watch and wait scenario for about ten minutes before he moved enough to allow for a photo.

   I saw several squirrels and heard some swans and a Ring-necked Rooster. I saw a lot of chickadees and juncos feeding heavily in the brambles. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I didn’t see any bear on this jaunt. On the positive side I did learn a lot more about the lay of the land. Upon coming home I checked my trail cam. Bucks…I get buck photos of three different bucks almost every night. I small-racked buck enjoyed rubbing my tress last evening.

 

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Bear damage

 

  Monday, November 20, I headed to the woods of Armstrong County to seek out a Black Bear. The first day, November 18th was a wash out. I  “schmartly” decided to not go out and be wet. The weather people were calling for windy conditions, also. This day would be different. Although dark I could see a “skiff” of snow as I approached my destination.

I pulled in only to see a younger fellow almost ready to head up the game land’s road to his hunting spot. We spoke briefly and off he went. I followed shortly afterwards. I had planned to still hunt and old clear cut, but after I searched out tracks at a Y in the trail I noticed  some footprints in the sandy area. Yes, he was going to the top where I had planned, so I altered my direction. As stated little snow was present. There was enough to help see, but not enough to effectively track and bear, if I would happen to see a track somewhere. In fact, much of the snow would be melted by 9:30 A.M. except deep hollows and northern exposed hills.

Rough terrain

 

I moved quickly along food plots trying to cut any tracks before the snow was melted. None were found. Two, separate, small game hunters were observed hunting. I actually saw one bag a pheasant. I decide to cross the main road and hunt the other side of the game lands.

I journeyed the game lands area moving through recent clear cuts. The brush and briars are unbelievable. I come here often knowing this is prime bear habitat, but finding one is almost nil and  getting a shot probably almost as impossible, yet I try to beat the odds. Many bear would hold tight in such habitat allowing the hunter to walk past.

 

My good friend, Carl Nulph. Always pleasant and always happy.

Eventually, I moved up and over a high wall only to see an old friend, Carl Nulph. He was checking trail cams for wildlife activity. We enjoyed our conversation for   about half an hour. Carl and I have been friends for many years and I always cherish the time we see each other to chat. In fact, we met last year on this very same hill top. I thought about putting him out of his misery, but elected to maintain a clean rifle. Hi Linda!                                                            

I circled around the game land’s edge only to be surprised to see many acres of standing corn. I said to myself, “Self, that is where the bear will be at.”  Unfortunately, I didn’t have permission to hunt the property. I began a circle around the back side of the hill. My decision was to move along slowly and whenever I reached the jeep I would call it a day. That time was 2:30.

The only signs of bear I had found in the area were utility pole damage and one pile of scat.  I saw two buck and one doe. I saw and heard several flocks of swans and a Red-tail Hawk and a Cooper’s hawk. I didn’t see any squirrels. I wondered how the recent weather may have affected the wildlife. The day became quite windy  later on. Enough wind was present to cause some chapping of my lips. Oh, the life of a hunter. Today, as I type, the weather is warming to close sixty degrees. I decided  to not hunt.  Since I am a lone hunter I am always concerned of getting a bear. The work of getting a bear out of the woods in warm weather is a task I don’t enjoy. Since, I would be eating  the bear I don’t want to have any spoiling of meat. It took much time to remove a bear I harvested in the past.

 

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dsc_0042  Saturday’s weather front hit hard with howling winds. Today those winds were still present.        dsc_0040

I was disappointed upon seeing any trace of snow had melted here at home. The fifteen or so miles to get to the game lands failed to see snow, However, once I arrived to my hunting spot a snow blanketed the woodlands. The woods were white and any bear would be easy to see. However, tracking would be a little difficult. I wished for another inch of snow to aid in tracking.

I found some very old bear tracks rather quickly. I estimated they were made Sunday evening. The snows that had fallen completely filled any tracks to make determining direction impossible. Also, I checked tracks from Point A and Point B. I completely lost the tracks at both points. Apparently, at the time of the bear’s movements the snow wasn’t able to reach the forest floor because of the dense Autumn Olive and Multifloral Rose brambles. I circled around trying to locate fresher tracks, but failed. Existing snow was melting by mid-morning in places.

I walked from six in the morning until sometime after 1:00. I stopped to rest one time for twenty minutes. My leg was telling me from the beginning to stop, but I pushed on. I saw some deer, ringneck pheasants and turkeys, but no squirrels at all. The front may have affected their activities. I heard few shots anywhere. I didn’t see a single bear hunter in the woods.

And the winds howled!!!!                                                                     dsc_0041

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Bear Season 2016

 

Clear cut

Clear cut

What a difference a few hours can make in regards to the weather. I glanced into the skies as I began the pre-dawn walk up the

Beech

Beech

mile long hollow. I was planning on getting to a predetermined spot to await dawn before still hunting through a clear cut searching for anything black. However, I couldn’t help myself to observe the bright moon, starry sky and the calmness of that early time.

Memories of past bear hunts along with some very close encounters jarred my thoughts. A silent prayer of thanks was uttered.

The sky was bright by around 6:30 A.M. but the woodlands were still darkened. The little birds were chirping as I noticed a bird fly close to my head. The bird was an owl. I could see the bird’s “horns” as it perched about thirty yards from me.

 

Detail from my painting called, "Great-Horned Owl".

Detail from my painting called, “Great-Horned Owl”.

dsc_0030  I began my slow walk up the hollow stopping often to listen and look. I found some past bear sign. I came to an area where I climbed the slope while utilizing a well-worn deer trail. Two hen pheasants flushed, but I couldn’t get the camera on them. Immediately, I noticed a hawk gliding from across the hollow. That Cooper’s Hawk either heard the pheasants or saw them , or both. At that time, another flushed rom behind me. The hawk flew right over my head and moved quickly into the area where the pheasant had landed. I don’t know if the hawk was successful. I heard two shots in the distance from across the road. (I didn’t see a hunter all morning. where I was hunting.)                                            

By this time the cloud cover was at about 90%. The western sky was dark now.

 

Nature's Play-Doh

Nature’s Play-Doh

I reached the end of the hollow and turned to still hunt a high wall. The winds had increased and I would soon see leaves fluttering in the sky over 100 feet high. I saw one doe during this maneuver.

I approached and sat down to watch a big basin that had a lot of hemlocks and oaks. the woods became very dark and I knew rain would be soon. At dsc_0032eleven the  rains began. I heard four shots across the road over half a mile away.

dsc_0037  The winds were howling and the rain was pelting me as I headed the distance to the jeep. I saw a male ringneck. The bird allowed for a number of photos after I removed the camera from my shoulder bag. This really dampened my camera.

At noon the sky was mixed with rain and heavy, big snowflakes. I headed home. I was becoming quite wet!

 

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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.

Puffball

Puffball

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.

Bye!

Bye!

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.

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