Deer in moonlight hits the right spot

The moon eerily lit up the snow-covered fields on New Year’s night. It was not only the full moon but a ‘super moon,”and it lived up to its name.

I was holed up inside my house for the fifth straight day and night because of the weather and gripped with a full-fledged case of cabin fever. Then my phone rang, and it was a hunting buddy who wanted to know if I wanted to go out and spot for deer.

“Are you crazy?” I retorted. “Do you really think there will be any deer standing out in fields covered with icy snow?”

But I said I’d go because I was really ready to get out of the house for any excuse.

We didn’t see anything for awhile, and that’s just how I figured it would be, but the huge moon lit up the fields so brightly we didn’t even need to use the huge, new spotlight that had been a Christmas present for my buddy.

We rounded a curve and almost ran into eight deer that were gathered on the railroad tracks, of all things. Never before in my life have I ever seen a gang of deer standing on railroad tracks. They scattered like a covey of quail when the car lights hit them, and we swerved around the corner on the road and caught about a half dozen of them crossing the road into the trees.

It probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but it was a strange sight, watching eight deer jumping around by moonlight. Shortly thereafter, a rabbit ran across the road in front of the car and seemed like there was wildlife everywhere for awhile.

n On New Year’s Day, the Game Commission announced that from here on, the official name for wildlife officers would be “game wardens.” And since when have we not called them that?

I can recall several title changes applied to these personnel over many decades, but that original title of game warden is the one that stuck, what we called them no matter what their official title was.

Game wardens have broad duties they fulfill. Most wardens share a basic duty to enforce the laws that regulate hunting, protect wildlife and the environment. However, their duties extend into education, research and a host of conservation programs.

For example, Pennsylvania game wardens coordinate and supervise hunter-trapper education programs. They also represent the agency at conservation and sportsmen’s club meetings, respond to nuisance wildlife complaints and deal with injured wildlife and suspected rabid-animal calls.

Warden work also includes wildlife surveys, wildlife trap-and-transfer, field research and providing programs to civic groups and public schools.

It’s important to point out, though, that game wardens are sworn peace officers with statewide law-enforcement authority. They are highly trained and equipped as well as any police officer. They are expected to know and follow standards for protecting civil rights, gathering evidence that will hold up in court and prosecute violations of many different laws.

n We are all waiting now for the various outdoor shows that will soon fill our calendars. The huge Harrisburg Outdoor show will be toward the beginning of February, and our own local Jaffa Outdoor Show will be held toward the end of February.

We go to them to just be around other outdoor people, to see what’s new in equipment and to talk with outfitters and guides about trips for the upcoming year. Seminars by experts in various fields will be sharing their tips and knowledge and entertaining us with various exciting hunting adventures.

n While I am not a particular fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, I am, for various reasons, a big fan of their quarterback, Carson Wentz. He posted a picture of his bird dog and the fruits of a day of goose hunting and was bombarded by the anti-hunters

“How could you kill those poor geese?” they demanded and added expletives to punctuate their point. Most hunters these days get pelted with that and similar questions, including yours truly.

Generally, I simply ask them, “Well who killed your Thanksgiving turkey for you?” Why is it morally superior to go to a grocery store and load up on steaks and hamburger and chicken legs that you are going to have to pay part of the fee for killing them for you when you check out?

For me, I am not hung up on going out and bagging and processing my deer, turkey, rabbit or goose myself as opposed to paying someone else to kill it for me.