For the majority of Pennsylvania hunters, archery deer season, which opened yesterday, marks the beginning of serious hunting seasons.
As nearly perfect perhaps too perfect since deer seldom move around much during the day when temperatures are warm as the weather was, every hunter who ventured out before dawn yesterday was aware of a cloud of a different kind hanging over his or her head.
Archers were marking a dubious "first," hunting in a newly created zone: the Disease Management Area 2. The first DMA is in the York/Adams County area where the dreaded Chronic Wasting Disease was first discovered in our state.
Questions trouble us: should we kill a deer that is obviously sick? Will a deer I bag this season be among the 1,000 that the Game Commission will test? Should I go to the trouble and expense of having my deer privately tested? If I don't have it tested should my family and I eat the venison?
In the light of the questions many will simply opt to not hunt in this DMU and will go to neighboring areas. Many will decide not to hunt at all.
I'm sure most of us got a letter from the Game Commission outlining the boundaries of the two DMA's and answering some questions. Here are a few of the pertinent tips given.
n Do not shoot, handle or consume any animal that appears sick; contact the state wildlife agency if you see or harvest an animal that appears sick.
n Wear rubber or latex gloves when field-dressing carcasses.
n Bone out the meat from your animal.
n Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues.
n Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing is completed.
n Request that your animal is processed individually, without meat from other animals being added to meat from your animal, or process your own meat if you have the tools and ability to do so.
n Have your animal processed in the endemic area of the state where it was harvested, so that high-risk body parts can be properly disposed of there. Only bring permitted materials back to Pennsylvania
n Don't consume the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils or lymph nodes of harvested animals. (Normal field dressing, coupled with boning out a carcass, will remove most, if not all, of these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue will help remove remaining lymph nodes.)
Even though the use of food-based scents and lures have been illegal for years, this year, because of the threat of CWD, all urine-based scents are now illegal. So that means that just about all a hunter can do is to be as scent-free as possible himself and to have a good idea where the traveling lanes of deer are and to post along them.
Cover scents are still legal; earth, pine, cedar and the like but nothing that smells in any way like food. No apple or corn scents and no doe-in-estrus and doe urine scents.
Frankly when I go hunting this year, I will have the Game commission letter and DWA map in a waterproof envelope on my person so I can refer to it if questions arise.
There are reports of many really nice bucks being spotted in our WMU(4D). They are more easily seen now as they meander around looking for food, not yet fully in the rut but stirrings of it are strong. Rubs are easily spotted in the woods and they are one of the best indicators of the presence of bucks and the larger the tree used to make a rub, the larger the antlers of the buck that made the rub.
By now, deer have rubbed or scraped the velvet off their antlers. They do it by finding a limber tree and rubbing their antlers on the tree's trunk to remove the velvet. Some tell us they do that because the velvet becomes itchy as it dries and begins to sluff off. So, spotting a rub on a small sapling indicates a smaller-antlered buck used it. A wide, shredded rub on a big tree shouts that a giant of the woods used that tree to polish his antlers.
The sight of a huge rub makes a hunter's heart skip a beat or two. Many a treestand will be erected within arrow-range of such rubs.
Remember that ticks are a more insidious threat than CWD but an important danger to prevent. I recommend again the Permathrim spray. Please use it according to instructions. It is not a repellent type you spray on your skin. It is a treatment for our clothes and boots and any blind we may use.
I have used Permathrim for 3 years now and have not had one tick in that time. That's why I recommend it to you.
Also, I have been a long-time, long-suffering Pirates fan for 28 years. I was watching the night in 1992 when the heartbreaking loss occurred and that wound was not healed until last Tuesday night when the Pirates won the Wild Card Game. I was alone at home watching that game, cheering, clapping and yelling at the TV.
I am writing this before the series with the Cardinals so I don't know how that will come out. I am also a daily listener to Cory Giger's sports show on the radio and the thing I would love to hear again is the show from just before the start of this season when Cory invited callers to predict how many games the Pirates would win this year. I can't remember but was there anyone who predicted they would be in the playoffs? I would not have predicted that myself and I wonder if anyone did.
If the Pirates advance beyond the series with the Cardinals, will hunters forgo an evening in the woods to watch those games? I would, and I wonder how many others would?