Thanksgiving week means one thing. No, not the turkey or the family... not Black Friday or Small Business Saturday. (Though if you enjoy all those things, good for you!)
Sure, deer hunting in Pennsylvania has been going on for weeks in one form or another. Inline muzzleloader, archery, special youth seasons... but that opening day of rifle seems to trump all the rest.
Hell, schools are closed for it. Or rather, were when rifle season started on a Monday. (School is still closed, but we get a bonus Satuday in the mix.)
So, on Saturday morning I rose from bed at 4am. I layered up after checking the temperature. A high below freezing would make for a long day in the stand waiting for something with antlers to appear. I climbed into the truck and headed to the hunting spot. A short ride, and then a hike across the field and I was in the stand well before sunrise.
The sun rising over the hill is always a sight to behold on opening day. It seems even on days that are snowy, or rainy, the sun still manages to peek out and say hello.
By 6:45am, there's always a shot. Sure, it's not legal shooting time... but someone, somewhere in the distance always pulls the trigger. When that happens, it seems that it's the signal for hunting to begin. Usually you'll hear shots all around the neighboring fields and mountains for the next few hours until the lull in the middle of the day.
This year was a little different. By noon, I had counted on one hand how many shots I had heard. I found it strange. Were there less hunters in the woods on Saturday because of Thanksgiving and family plans? Or was it simply so nice that the deer weren't moving about?
I knew it wasn't the latter, as I had a nice 4 point buck keep me company mid-morning and then bed down in the brush in the next rock pile over. After a good nap, he returned to mill about in the field. He paid me no mind as he munched on whatever goodies he could find there.
I watched him meander across the field, infront of my stand and to the side. He really wasn't concerned that I was sitting there. He didn't seem to be ignorant of my presence, but yet someone he knew that I wasn't going to lift that gun up and pull the trigger.
I watched him until the mid-afternoon hunt when I finally giggled a little too hard at what he was doing and he walked off. The evening hours produced one or two more shots and then darkness fell. I headed home to sleep on Sunday, before beginning again on Monday. Knowing it was going to snow, I had hoped to bag one, but that wasn't how it was to be apparently.
Monday morning was a wash, rinse, repeat sort of entrance to the stand. Thouggh the ride took a little longer and so did the walk. As I headed out I watched in the distance. Though it was dark the four or six inches of snow already on the ground helped take what little light there was and amplify it.
I got back into my stand in the rock pile and lsitened to nothing. No bird (not even the blasted crows that I swear alert deer to where people are sitting), no squirrels. No shots, no deer. It was a solid 11 hours of me and snow. Not a track, not a trace ever entered the field that day. I read a book between scanning the now easily visible tree line. I probably could have stayed inside. and watched deer on tv and had better luck. I can at least say I was out there though.
Darkness fell as the snow continued to pile up. The walk back form the stand took more than twice as long to accomplish. The snow was well over a foot deep in some spots and just around a foot in others. A little wind and drifting made it impossible to tell exactly how much had accumulated, but there were steps into the white that went past my knee.
I hung up the rifle until tomorrow (Saturday) when, with any luck, the field will come alive and I'll get a chance to fill both my tags. Here's hoping that there's plenty of folks in the woods, the deer are moving and the shots are plenty.