2020-Hunting a Week in PA Rifle -Opening Day

For everyone across the world 2020 was the year of the Covid pandemic. It seemed to touch everyone , some in the same way, some in different ways. While I’m typing this now a blessed survivor of the lethal virus, immediately prior to catching the wee beasties, Covid actually led so some positive experiences for me.

The positive was an entire week out on the beloved land, the land that taught me to hunt and of which I’ve been blessed to call my “second home” for most of my life. PA seasons, and my trips are always a bit circumstantial. In PA, you only get one buck tag and , if lucky, one doe tag. So, if I want to be part of the collective open day “orange army” in the woods on Saturday after Thangsgiving, then I must at least be unsuccessful to some degree in bow season. That does lead me to pass on some smaller bucks, which I did when I visited in late October.

However, this year’s bow season was particulaly “quite” when it came to seeing deer, especially the doe. I saw two nice shooters, one on day one while i was blood trailing my friends deer he shot and lost the night before, and another, my first morning down in “the bowl”. I had a close encounter with a young buck I called “halo” as his bright white antler spikes curve upward and high, sorta like a halo at some glances. I also passed on a half rack.

Anyway, this year was particulary tough as I lost my nephew Jack(whom among many things I regret, was never having the opportunity to take him hunting)unexpectedly in mid Oct. I had hoped my brother, his dad, would take me up on my offer to photograph a hunt. I was thrilled that he accepted as I prayed some “woods time” would be good for his grieving soul. However, given the covid precautions, and mabe some other things, he ended up passing on the opportunity, but stating his interest maybe in 2021! So I headed out in my Ram 1500 alone, early Thanksgiving morning looking foward to a quite thanksgiving with just mom and dad, who were planning a lonely turkey day if I hadn’t come, and the next day to prepare for the opener on Saturday

On the opening day of gun, that Saturday, I had already set my folding camp chair up on “the ridge over the bowl”. This year, however, based on the last time I sat out there with gun, I abandoned my normal spot of 30 yrs and moved a bit southwest , next to a dip in the high ridge, that I noticed they were using. This spot also gave me shooting opps behind me, separated by a deep strip mining pit and looking onto a slight rise up to the road and in a relatively “safe” travel zone for the deer. I was excited to have the opportunity to not only glass out over the wide expanse of the bowl, but also have the opportunity to drop one trying to sneak by behind me.

That opening day, i found my chair as I left it and set in for the day.. I was a particulary quite opening day, hearing only a dozen or so shots on adjacent properties, but none of the three of us hunting the bowl that morning saw any bucks. I did have a few nice turkey scare the crap out of me at dawn as they walked the ridge, only to find , to their great dismay , me sitting in their path. The ridge is maybe 50-60ft high, at like an 75 degree angle , but only like 15–20 feet wide a the top…basically just one trail walking its horseshoe or “bowl” shape(its not quite entirely round, but does hook around quite a bit. What surprised me also was that they didn’t use the runway up the ridge, escaping the bowl on the dip i was sitting next to.

Like every opening day, I sat with excited anticipation, determined(and prepared with plenty of snacks and sandwiches) to stay all day, and with the belief that , at any moment “it could go down”. While I was eating one of my two sandwiches that I prepared at mom’s the night before, I noticed a nice one, in the thick stuff, hesitantly checking out the more open areas where I can get clear, long shots. I watched the other deer come in behind this one…there were maybe 4–7. It’s hard sometimes to keep an accurate count as they move around in the thick. Adam said he saw a pack of 7, it likely was the same set. I put the scope and binoculars on all that I saw and determined they looked to be all anterless.

Like most opening days, I had decided to pass on any doe and hold out until later in day or season. In this rare case, given the uncertainly of covid, I hadn’t received a doe permit. So, shooting a doe, was only going to be a “need to”…but in this case, with two deer already in my freezer from NY’s bow and shotgun season, I really wasn’t in the “need to” state…so…I was strickly looking for one of the many nice bucks we had been watching all fall though the new addtion to our hunting tools, cellular game cameras. We had seen a really nice 7, two 8’s and two 10 pointers..any of which I’d gladly take.

I had to be careful , as we also saw some non legal , but BIG bucks, two huge racked 4 and 6pointers, which if I didnt know they existed by seeing them on the cams and if I’d seen them at a distance during gun season, I would’ve taken a shot given their size and antler height, mass and width. I didn’t end up seeing either of those two and can only hope they develop legal rack and present themselves in 2021.

The trail cam caught me coming down for som whisky to warm up…chair over one shoulder, .308 the other.
View from my chair on the bowl, the dip on the ridge(which the pic doesn’t do the height justice) was like 20yrs to my left.

I ended up watching that pack of deer, every so often excited by what would appear as perhaps a make courter, but no luck. As the afternoon turned into dusk, by hopes reignited , but they soon went down like the sun. At very last legal shooting light, behind me, across the strip pit, walking on the road, I saw something not many see. It was a foggy dusk, and walking right down the road, about 125 yard from me was an all white, albino. We had seen it on the cams, theres a small spike buck, but this one was the doe. She was almost angelic, the way she regally walked down the center of the road , apparently glowing in the mist and encroaching darkness. I didn’t bother trying to capture on my cellphone, by chose , instead, to just soak the moment all in.

That was such a gift, and a great way for God to inspire me after a long, cold, quite day in His beauty I see in all creation. Inspired me enough to want to stay …the week…