’Tis the season to talk about deer, bears and that holiday bird

The first snow of winter seemed to have arrived earlier than usual this year yet it will be a gift for the bear hunters. That season opened Saturday and the hope was that many of the truly large bears known to be in Pennsylvania will be harvested this year. The snow should help.

There is, however, a blight on the season this year and that is the black bear population is afflicted with mange. That is not a pleasureable prospect, to finally bag a bear and see it is afflicted with mange.

But that is not all that is complicating and worrying hunters this year. Deer, especially in the area in which we live are afflicted with Chronic Wasting Disease as we are all aware this season. The rules connected with bagging a deer in this zone are complicated and be sure you are familiar with them when you set out for deer on opening day, a week from now.

Ruffed Grouse hunters faced a diminished population of the state bird mainly, experts think, due to the West Nile Virus. Ron Rohrbaugh, Collin Shepard and Linda Ordway, a regional wildlife biologist with the

The Ruffed Grouse Society was doing a windshield tour of the Allegheny National Forest awhile back and here, reprinted from an article in Pennsylvania Turkey Talk magazine, is an important finding from them.

The Ruffed Grouse we encountered in the Allegheny Forest is a good example of our work. Many forest species, like the grouse, wood thrush and golden winged warbler require forests of multiple ages within a relatively small area to complete their breeding cycles. Many forests in Pennsylvania tend to be even-aged after re-growing from forest clearing 80-100 years ago.

Our work, which manages forests through strategic timber harvesting will create healthy, resilient forests with age and structural conditions that better meet the needs of birds and other wildlife, said these experts.

That’s only a tidbit of information from one of the conservation, special-interest organizations in our state that concentrate on this sort of research. There are many others such as Trout Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation and so on. They work hard for us, raise much money that goes to finance good research and projects. As concerned sportsmen for all these problems that have arisen as of late with our wildlife we should support them.

We have non-hunted wildlife that is threatened with lethal maladies such as the white nose syndrome with bats. While none of us enjoy having bats in our attic, bats eat thousands of insects. We enjoy that benefit in the summer.

I had a fine time this fall chasing turkeys. I took a friend out on his first foray for turkeys. We spent the day patiently calling and waiting and did not see a turkey although there was sign of turkey throughout the area.

I had hunted there a few days prior and run into, of all things, what I strongly suspect was a group of jakes because they were gobbling like it was spring season instead of fall. I couldn’t get them to me that day but they were lighting up the woods with their gobbles. That’s why I took my friend to that spot a few days later.

I gave my friend a day-long seminar that day on the basics and calls and gear needed to be a reasonably successful fall turkey hunter and he says he is ready to strike out on his own. Perhaps.

So that is why I went back the next time I was able to go and went back to the very spot we had spent the day at and sure enough along came some turkeys. I got so excited at the sight of them, I pulled my shotgun to my shoulder, didn’t put my head down on the stock properly or line up the two beads on the barrel and fired off a shot. The two birds just ambled off leisurely but there was so much brush between us, I couldn’t see them anymore.

I got turkey fever that day. After all these years of hunting these birds, I fell to the most amateurish mistake.

Fall turkey season opens again Thanksgiving Day and if the weather permits, I will be out there that day trying again. I have no family in the area so I have an obligatory dinner I must attend. I always spend Thanksgiving Day hunting turkeys and am thankful to be doing it. If I manage to bag a turkey on the holiday, I will subject it to one of my favorite recipes on Christmas Day.

Life is good!