Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Sunday, October 29, 2006
In Pennsylvania the fall hunting seasons are in full swing. Archery deer, small game and turkey are now open, with the muzzleloader doe having closed last Saturday and general deer season only a few weeks away.
The motivation for hunting is as varied as the hunters themselves. Some hunt only for the thrill of the kill and some of those have no concern for the game they hunt or the laws that govern hunting. These are my enemies; I have spent over two decades of my life fighting them. Others are true sportsmen who care deeply about the environment and all of the creatures in it. That hunters were at the forefront of the first conservation laws in this country and with their dollars continue to finance the majority of wildlife protection and habitat improvement projects in our country is a little known fact.
For me, hunting is a time to be spent in our wildlands, in solitude, alone with the beauty of nature, away from the ringing of phones, the hassles of the office, or the traffic snarls. It is a time to slow down, to feel the chilly breeze upon my face, to savor the sweet odor of new fallen leaves, to watch as a single leaf falls to the ground, to watch the first snowflakes of the year, a time to be alone with my thoughts, while at the same time being so attuned to my surroundings that a glint of sunlight or a flicker of movement through the undergrowth is not missed and will reveal the presence of a previously undetected creature.
Hunting is a time to visit old homesteads that have been abandoned for many years. A time to sit and look at the ruins and think what life may have been like in those days. What were these people like, where did they go, what were their hopes and dreams? I can only daydream about it for I will never know. Many lie in now unmarked graves, their names lost to history.
Hunting is a time to pause beside a mountain brook and listen to its music as it makes its way down the hollow, to look at the beauty of the leaves trapped in its flow.
A time to look closely at the bubbles formed for only a moment at the bottom of a miniature waterfall.
Hunting is a time to reach back and reconnect with our early ancestors when their next meal depended upon the success of the hunt. It is a time to again connect with the predator instincts that are genetically encoded within each of us.
This is what hunting means to me.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Today when I returned to my truck from a day spent hunting in the mountain I encountered my brother set up for his evening wildlife shoot. With his impressive array of equipment around him I thought it the perfect opportunity to photograph him for this blog post. I have encouraged him to begin blogging, but he feels that with all of his photo processing and video editing he does not have the time to take up yet another hobby. His photography remains a hobby, although he has had one photograph published in the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s annual calendar. My brother captures wildlife, from the smallest bird to the largest bull elk all become targets in front of his Canons.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Are there aliens among us? Does this photo prove their existence? I think not, although a closer look at some of God’s little creatures can give us insight upon where Si-Fi folks get some of their inspiration.
One day while driving our local back roads this little guy hitched a ride on my windshield. In the past I would not have taken a second look but now it is different. I quickly realized that here was a unique photo op.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
On this day the creek is ablaze in spectacular fall colors. I stop and look in silence. I have known this creek for my entire life. My childhood home place is bordered by it on two sides. The creek was an everyday part of our lives. As a child it was a place to skip rocks, a place to swim, it is where I caught my first fish. Most days it is a pleasant gentle stream, a nice place to relax.
Occasionally its attitude changes for a time and it becomes a raging torrent devouring everything in its path. When the floods come we are certain to have fences swept away. The crops growing in the fertile creek bottoms are lain waste.
In its rage it deposits a new layer of fertile silt upon the fields, new ground for new crops to thrive in.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
The Winegardner School was built in 1858 and remained open until 1955. It was purchased by one of its former teachers at auction following its closure. She restored and maintained the interior until her death in 2003, upon which she willed it to the local historical society. Another member of the society who passed away in 2004 bequeathed funds to the society for the restoration and maintenance. Much has been done to date and this weekend it was open to the public to tour.
As we walked through the school an older couple entered and the gentleman began rummaging through a stack of report cards looking for his. We struck up a conversation and he explained that he had spent ten years in this building getting his education. He remembered where he sat all those years ago. When asked if he would take his seat for a photo op he happily obliged. This was one of those treasures in time that I am so glad I was able to capture while Dalbert sat in his seat with his wife by his side.
Outside the old privy remains is a state of disrepair. I looked at the distance from the school thinking of how that distance was intended for sanitary reasons but it would have made for a cold trip on those snowy winter days.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Twelve days ago our Cannas were blooming beautifully. I captured this bloom the evening before we expected our first killing frost.
Today I again photographed the Cannas. Soon I will be digging the canna bulbs for winter storage. The original bulbs were given to us by my mother before she passed away. This makes them very special to my wife and I and we look forward to seeing them grow each year.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Pictured above at the age of three
Your new champion is a very deserving young man. I have never considered him a nerd, but he certainly does have a humongous vocabulary of nerdy words! Like many of us he reserves them for those “special occasions” where they most certainly will get a laugh. He is the number one fan in the Napoleon Dynamite fan club.
He came into my home at the age of fifteen. This is an age at where many young folks are difficult to deal with in a stable home let alone moving into an entirely new family situation. Chad was not! He quickly became the son I never had. I can’t say we shared all common interest because we didn’t but we never let that stand in the way of becoming a family. Chad did take some to my fishing but hunting was never his forte. About as close as he came to hunting was eating Bambi. Which I might add was done with gusto!
Monday, October 16, 2006
Since the last post concerned the sport of hunting, I thought I would continue with the theme but with a different twist. In the late 1970’s and early ‘80’s I gave bow hunting a serious try. I became quite proficient with shooting the bow as evidenced by this photograph taken somewhere around 1983. This was the culmination of a morning shoot at nearby Raystown Lake. The carp were spawning in the shallows and with a careful stalk I was able to approach within bow range. My oldest daughter is accompanying me in this photo. She is now grown and is the proud mother of our grandson Sage, featured with the pink umbrella in a previous post.
After a few years of shooting I put the bow away as the heavy shooting regimen was beginning to damage my right shoulder causing nearly constant pain. Also I found my recovery rate while deer hunting was unacceptable. As a hunter I believe if one is going to attempt to harvest an animal he should do it in such a way as to inflict the least pain and suffering as possible. I simply can not justify the suffering which accompanies wounding an animal. Thus I quit bow hunting and use only firearms.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Today was the first day of our muzzleloader deer season. I have owned and used muzzleloaders for over three decades. My first muzzleloader was a Navy Arms 58cal. Zouave rifle. The original Zouave rifles were used by some troops in our civil war. I learned the art of muzzleloader shooting with it and spent many an enjoyable hour shooting and hunting before there were any special muzzleloading hunting seasons. The top photo is a close-up of the lock mechanism.
Firing the Zouave
These photos are from my 1970’s archives
The years have sped by and much has changed in the world of muzzleloading; special seasons, new types of muzzleloaders, substitute black powder, and modern projectiles with much improved lethality. Today I find myself using some of the advantages afforded us by these changes. I now hunt with a scope sighted modern in-line rifle with Power-Belt projectiles but I continue to use the real thing when it comes to the black powder. The photo above was taken by my wife while I was sighting in this rifle a couple of weeks ago.
Today the preparations paid off with the harvest of a nice doe.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Sage last came to visit on a rainy day. Although the rain had stopped he insisted on using his mother’s umbrella while playing on the deck.
I suppose he was practicing the old adage; on ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
A time to be born and a time to die.
The season is passed for the log and the leaves; in splendor they gather
Note, Image sized for use as desktop
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
As we approach the peak colors of autumn one must take time away from busy schedules to absorb the awesome beauty.
Soon those "must do" items on our daily schedule will be as unimportant and forgotten as this old hay rake sitting abandoned by the edge of the field.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Today I visited an old farmstead known to older locals as Dick’s Lower Place. Dick Mellott had previously lived farther up the mountain and after moving the locals began referring to his two homesteads as the upper and lower place. While the family lived at this location my Grandfather taught the children at Maple Grove, the local one room school. At the time there were many families living on this mountain side and some of the remnants of their homes still remain. These were hardscrabble farms with thin rocky soil where scratching out a living was difficult at best. The area has now reverted mostly to forest and much of it is now part of the Pennsylvania State Gamelands system. The names of these places will soon be lost to history, possibly with the passing of my generation. The stone cellar is all that remains of the house, but two of the outbuildings were made of rot resistant chestnut log construction and the ruins remain.
The rough hewn logs tell the story of hours of toil; felling the trees with a two man crosscut saw, flattening two sides with an adze, notching them with an axe and stacking them into a building. Not much money was required in the construction but rather the cost was many hours of hard backbreaking labor.
The adze marks from many years ago are still plainly visible.
A square cut nail still protrudes from a fallen timber.
A hole bored by the doorway, probably used as part of a long gone latching mechanism.
Today the family is gone. The children who once romped here have all grown old and passed on. Only the yucca remains as the last living reminder of the family who once lived here.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
I encountered this beautiful Sulphur Shelf Fungus yesterday. It was growing on the side of a rotting tree trunk. Its colors were vibrant in the misty woods. With the low light level, I was unsure if I would be able to capture the beauty that was before me.
Nothing goes to waste in the forest. This large tree died and fell to the forest floor. Now it is home to many insects, salamanders, small animals, plants and fungi. They all are helping the decay of the tree to proceed thus returning the nutrients and minerals of the tree to the soil so other life can use them and flourish in a never ending cycle!
The Sulphur Shelf Fungus is commonly known as the Chicken of the Woods for when fried it is supposed to be comparable to fried chicken. Although I consider myself somewhat of an outdoorsman this is one delicacy I have not tried!
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Friday, October 06, 2006
The Meadow Grounds Falls are the only falls of any significance in my area. The stream forming this falls is a tributary to the Potomac River. These falls are located on Pennsylvania state gamelands, thus allowing full public access. To reach it requires a hike through somewhat rugged terrain.
Pennsylvania has over 1.4 million acres in the state gamelands system. This land is open to the public for hiking, hunting, birding etc. The rules and regulation governing the use of the lands are commonsense guidelines designed to preserve the lands for the enjoyment of all and future generations. These lands have been purchased with monies generated by our state’s hunters through license sales and excise taxes on hunting equipment. Although this land is purchased and maintained only by hunters it is open for all to enjoy at any time totally free!
I shot this photograph many years ago with a Minolta SLR on Kodak Ektachrome with a double polarizing filter to achieve the effect you see here.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
I love the beautiful scenes afforded us by our many country roads. As we move into autumn they become more beautiful with each passing day. I full well know that soon the dull drab grays of winter will be upon us but now is the time to bask in the glory of autumn. As with all things in life........
This scene is directly in front of our home. My wife said she was glad I took it as she frequently pauses to enjoy the view for a moment on her daily walk to our mailbox
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Monday, October 02, 2006
The baiting of wildlife for the purpose of hunting is unlawful in our commonwealth and has been so since the very early conservation laws were passed early last century. Many individuals do try to take this shortcut to harvest their deer regardless of the illegality.
The hunters have been preparing for the upcoming deer season for months. The latest bows and arrows have been purchased and many hours have been spent at the range shooting and fine tuning the tackle. The sporting goods stores have been very busy selling the latest of gadgets to improve the hunter’s success. They have braved the crowds in their attempt to get everything just right. They have the latest camouflage clothing complete with carbon scent blocker lining and of course not only their clothing but also their bodies are freshly washed in the latest scent eliminator. Other preparations have taken place also. Since the early days of August a weekly trip has been made to their hunting area to place corn and salt at the hunting stands. This is the one little secret which is kept private among the members. Not a word of it is to be breathed to anyone. As the apples begin to ripen they too are added to the feed piles. Trail cameras are also added to capture images of the deer attending the bait. With all of the technology available our hunter wants to know what to expect before hunting season arrives. Once he has killed his deer he will have something to brag about to his friends and co-workers. He will tell how he scouted the area and located the trophy buck, spent unending hours patterning him to determine his feeding and bedding areas and how he placed his stand at the exact spot in order to intercept him on his way between the two. Our hunter will portray himself as a real modern day Nimrod!
Our hunters are not the only ones busy. The conservation officers have been going about their daily work. Along the way they will on occasion take note of a truck load of corn or apples etc. driving into a lane where they suspicion that no farmer has livestock. Perhaps someone mentions their suspicions of baiting occurring on a neighboring property.
What ever the circumstance it will be investigated. Foot patrols are conducted and evidence is gathered. They too are preparing for the upcoming season.
Opening day our hunters rise from bed early. Perhaps they had a difficult time sleeping while thoughts of large bucks filled their minds. After a quick breakfast our hunters depart for their well prepared ambush spots. They want to arrive early so that the disturbance of their arrival has time to settle before daylight. Perhaps the deer will forget that they are there.
Unknown to them a few hours earlier the officers also left the comfort of their beds, meeting, going over maps and laying out the day’s strategy. One officer will wait a few yards from each hunting stand, well camouflaged. Radios will be turned off to make sure the hunter remains unaware of their presence. Watches are synchronized and the time of the apprehension is decided. The officers arrive at the area and proceed on foot to their appointed spots. A short time after settling in the hunters arrive.
This is the risk many of our less than honorable hunters take each fall in an attempt to beat the system and perhaps get the Whitetail Trophy of a lifetime. Sometimes they do, but sometimes what they get is totally unexpected.