A chilly, showery opener for archery season, as we had here Saturday, is to the hunter's liking. Deer are apt to feed nearly all day and the woods are quiet so the archer can still-hunt if he chooses. I love sneaking around in damp woods. As scentless as I can be, coupled with quiet walking, gives me considerable advantage. And since deer can smell from a half-mile away and run far faster than I can, I need any advantage I can get.
Still hunting while archery hunting, especially after the morning watch and before the evening watch, can be very productive if the hunter hunts slowly, watching not only for deer ahead of him in the woods but also for signs of deer. Tracks in soft, muddy places, rubs on trees (the hunter generally knows that the bigger and deeper the rub, the larger the antlers are of the buck that made the rub), droppings, food sources all indicate to an observant hunter exactly where it could be profitable to put his tree stand or even to take up a ground watch.
So many wonderful things happen around a quiet, camouflaged hunter on watch in the fall woods. Squirrels and chipmunks scurry around quickly gathering up a winter food cache. There is no hunter who does not thrill at the wild sound of geese flying overhead as they head for warmer climates. Foxes and coyotes mince around the woods, looking for their suppers and the glimpse of one trips a hunter's heartbeat a notch or two.
As much as I am not a fan of coyotes, there is something about their predawn howling that identifies with that wild sound. Usually the leaves are such a riotous canopy but this year, not so much. Whatever it takes to make the leaves blaze with eye-popping color seems to be missing this year. Oh, well.
Everything is in a hurry it seems, in the woods, to get ready for a long winter. As exciting as it is to be in the woods when wild things seem to just pop up all around, the hunter knows that it also signals a time of survival and endurance for him as well. At least, this is how I feel about it.
The Game Commission, in an effort to make hunting and enjoying and learning times more available to prospective young hunters, has proposed to expand its mentored youth programs. Already this year, mentored youth can hunt fall turkeys under the guidelines set out for the safety of all involved.
Preliminary approval has been given beginning next year, with the 2013-2014 seasons, to expand antlerless deer hunting opportunities for mentored youth. Sporting organizations and other interested groups have continued to express an interest in having the Game Commission expand the opportunities, said Ralph A. Martone, board president. The proposal is that the mentor can forfeit one of his own Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permits to the young person. So this is not an across the board program for mentoring youth but is for those who hunt under the DMAP program.
The DMAP program is one in which landowners who are affected by having too many deer on their own land yet do not want to open their land to public hunting, can obtain, under specified guidelines, permits for hunting on his land that he can give to those he wishes to hunt on his land to help reduce the number of antlerless deer on his land.
I hunt antlerless deer under the DMAP program. My hunting buddy in Armstrong County has land on which she does not want the public tramping around but does want some does taken for the health of the herd. She applies for DMAP permits for her land and then I am allowed to have one or two of those permits. It is a good program for helping the landowner balance the deer herd on his or her land.
Martone noted that this action will not significantly affect the DMAP antlerless deer harvest and is consistent with the goal of providing additional mentored youth hunting opportunities. Also, it will work in the same manner as the recent change in regulations to allow adult mentors to transfer one Wildlife Management Unit-specific antlerless deer license to a mentored youth. In other words, if I have DMAP permits to hunt on someone's land, I can simply transfer a permit to a mentored youth I am interested in helping get off to a good and safe start in deer hunting. A mentored youth would be allowed to be on the receiving of not more than one DMAP permit. This regulation will probably pass and be instituted as law for next year.
Frankly, getting a young person to start deer hunting is probably best done on private land since that is where the bulk of Pennsylvania's deer population is at this point. As the farmers begin to harvest corn soon, everything from rabbits to black bears will descend on those fields. When mast and berries and apples are in short supply, as is the case this year in many areas, animals quickly move in to take up temporary residence on the fringes of every cornfield in the state.
Drivers need to be especially vigilant and careful from now until Christmas as the rut or breeding season for deer will soon be in full swing and animals of all stripes will be moving across roads to get to the corn and soybean fields. It's an exciting time for hunters but a dangerous one for the animals. Drivers speeding down country roads will come into a collision course with rutting deer. And in such a collision it is always the driver that loses the most.