Plenty of outdoors options for Steelers fans

Now that we die-hard Steelers fans have to fill those winter weekend afternoons with something, here’s some suggestions to get you through to next season.

These are a few things to keep you busy. They include: turkey calling contests, various outdoor shows, straightening out our hunting and fishing gear and scouring the newspaper want ads to locate items we need or want that other people are looking to sell.

I love indoor winter rummage sales and I can tell you that I obtain much of my outdoor clothing and gear at a fraction of the retail cost by haunting these sales.

Among my friends it is a standing joke that I have 45 pairs of hunting boots and that I got every pair at yard sales or thrift stores. Well, after hunting season this year, I waded through that pile and donated quite a few pairs of boots I simply didn’t wear anymore.

So my boot stash is down to about 30 pairs now but I assure you, the next pair I find at a sale, I will no doubt buy.

This year in deer season, I wore a pair of boots with the felt liners and they were so comfortable and warm I wore them every day. And gloated inwardly that I had paid only 50 cents for them. Same went for the socks I had on, the trousers, sweatshirts, outer hunting coat and long underwear – all purchased at sales for 50 cents each or less.

Another find at rummage sales are the mini flashlights that are so handy in the woods. The same goes for waist packs and backpacks. I’m especially fond of fanny packs because I can stuff a lot of gear in them.

However, when I get to a deer stand or a tree set-up, I take them off and set them on the ground. That way they do not restrict my movements or weigh me down. I keep them close to me so that I can get whatever I may need out of it easily. I have several compasses, camping chairs and tables, dragging ropes, even knives that I have gotten at yard or rummage sales.

Mark it down

On Tuesday, Jan. 29, beginning at 8:30 a.m., the Game Commission will take up its prepared agenda to give preliminary approval to hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits for 2013-14 and establish other meeting dates for the coming year, among other things.

Doors open at 7:45 a.m. Antlerless deer license allocations for the 2013-14 seasons will be presented for the Board to consider at its meeting in April. Harvest results from the 2012-13 deer seasons will be announced in mid-March.

For those unable to attend this meeting, the Game Commission will webcast the meeting beginning with the Game Commission staff reports on Monday, immediately following the conclusion of public comments.

In addition, the full Board meeting on Tuesday will be webcast beginning at 8:30 a.m. An icon will be posted on the agency’s website which is ( on Monday to access the webcasts.

Poring over these reports from the Game Commission always passes a lot of time for those hunters who believe the Game Commission is solely at fault for the decreased deer herd in Pennsylvania.

Quite a few local hunters have bent my ear since this last deer season ended with how bleak the season was, how they didn’t see more than a few deer in the course of the entire season.

Then there are those who regale me with every detail of the fine trophy-sized bucks they were able to harvest. When I hunted this past season, just a couple counties away from Blair County, I stopped counting when the count was over 100 deer I had seen that season.

So listening to the harvest total report will be an interesting exercise this year.

On the lookout

Whatever piece of Pennsylvania’s woods I am in during any season, my eyes are always looking for food sources.

During the senior citizen season in October, a buddy and I started the day in a certain patch of woods. I hadn’t walked an hour before I realized that I hadn’t seen an acorn or patch of wild grapes.

I hadn’t seen a rub or scrape even though the rut was close. No deer tracks or droppings on the faint deer trails, nothing but mountain laurel as far as the eye could see.

It didn’t take me long to radio my buddy and suggest we try another area because there obviously were not any deer hanging around there.

Food shortages become critical during this time of year. Take a walk in the woods now and see what the deer can get to when snow is deep or frozen.

Deer tend to yard up during the winter and trails to any food they have are deep and evident. Seeing some deer standing in a green field in the summer is such a beautiful sight. They have the green grass and seem content. But in rough weather such as we have had over the holiday period means food shortages for wildlife and so survival becomes critical.

It is from a survey of what is available during the winter that the wildlife professionals determine what the carrying capacity of any tract of forest or land is calculated.

Most deer and turkeys are now ganged up near farmer’s fields looking for leftover corn and other grains and browse they can find.

Turkeys usually winter over pretty well. They are hardy birds and if snow is deep, they will stay in the trees for days at a time.

A biologist once told me that turkeys can go as long as 10 days without eating if weather is severe. Deer can plow through fluffy snow but turkeys have a hard time getting enough purchase to get through it or to launch themselves into the air. So they sit it out in the trees.

When the weather moderates a bit and we have a mid-winter thaw then you’ll see turkeys in huge flocks out in the fields looking for corn and grain and weed seeds.

Hunters get all excited at seeing flocks of 50 birds or more somewhere and think that will be a great spring hunting spot. But by the time the season starts, these huge flocks break up, as the turkey’s instincts go to the breeding instead of feeding.

So hang in there. Soon it will be time for the outdoor shows and turkey hunters will be doing seminars – including me – about how to hunt and call the spring gobblers. More about all this later.