Snow for Christmas, but not deer season

Waking up to six inches of fluffy snow last Thursday morning left me with a feeling of too little, too late. A week or two too late, that is, for deer season. How great would that soft, white blanket have been for pursuing deer around the rugged ridges and woods that I love to hunt.

As a still-hunter who likes to stalk through the woods in search of a deer rather than sit in a stand for hours, fighting boredom and cold feet while thinking about being just a little farther out the ridge, snow is the great equalizer for my type of hunting. Fresh powder allows a still-hunter to slip around woods silently, following tracks when possible and watching intently. Deer hunting then becomes a most visual game as deer can no longer take advantage of their natural camouflage to become invisible in the bare winter woods.

But as I brewed my morning coffee, the musing about what could have been had that snow came during deer season was mitigated somewhat by the fact I had managed to kill a nice 8-point buck on the last Friday of the season by still hunting in the bare woods of December. In spite of that, the snowfall now would just be a point of minor inconvenience, a wet, cold mess to shovel off the sidewalk and to sweep off my vehicle. I can remember when having snow for the opening of deer season was usually better than a 50-50 proposition. Now, having any appreciable snow on the ground during the first week of deer season seems to be a rarity. I guess it must be that global warming stuff the Democrats are always whining about.

The 2018 fishing licenses are on sale now. If you have an angler on your holiday gift list, there is one surefire gift that every angler will want and need for this coming season, regardless of what he or she fishes for or how often, and that is his new fishing license. To buy a license as a gift, you merely need to purchase a voucher at any license issuing agent or online at the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Web site, www.fish.state.pa.us. The recipient can then take the voucher to an issuing agent and receive his actual license.

If you refrain from giving gift cards because they seem somewhat impersonal, a gift card might be just the thing for some fishermen. Many stores don’t start stocking all the new lures and other fishing tackle until after the first of the year, so a gift card allows an angler to wait until all the new stuff arrives and stock up then.

And speaking of gift cards, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources now offers s Pennsylvania state park gift cards for any dollar amount that may be used for campsites, cabins and pavilions anywhere they are available in the state park system. If you know someone who likes to camp at our state parks, you can order a gift card for them on the DCNR Web site: www.dcnr.pa.gov. On the homepage, go to the center column under “HOT TOPICS” and click on the link “Purchase a State Park Gift Card.”

Over the years, the wives of some of my hunting and fishing companions have sought out my advice regarding a suitable Christmas gift for their hubby. Most of the time, I was able to offer suggestions that pleased both the giver and the recipient, but on two occasion I can recall, playing Santa wasn’t all that joyful. The first of those occurred when I recommended a new scope for a friend’s deer rifle. The one he was using was a borderline antique unit with terrible optics that was like looking through a soda straw.

And judging by the number of deer he missed and wounded using it, I think the crosshairs must have jumped well off zero every shot or two as well. When his wife told me a better scope was within her gift budget, I recommended one that I was sure would suit him.

The other was for an occasional fishing buddy who persisted in using an outdated fiberglass fly rod, which did nothing for his casting. To make matters worse, he flayed away with a ten-year-old fly line that had been worn out for the past five years. After watching him beat the water to a froth with that substandard gear, I suggested that his wife get him an entry-level graphite fly rod with a matching reel and line.

Surprisingly, both those friends were a little indignant at first when they learned I was the one who implied the gear they were using was inadequate. But once they had time to try out the new equipment, each of them ultimately admitted their upgrade was worthwhile and appreciated. Just another couple of Christmas miracles, I suppose.

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