Thursday, November 30, 2006


Family ties are strengthened by spending time together and participating in activities we all enjoy. In this photo a friend is teaching his sister to shoot a rifle. One can easily see from their expressions that they are enjoying the moment.

Good times make good memories;
Both are great medicine for the soul

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Deer Season. The End

Although our deer season runs through next Saturday, mine has ended. This morning shortly after first light I bagged this nine-point as he was moving to his bedding area. This buck is considerably larger than average for our area and is possibly the largest I have harvested in my hunting career.

For most of my life Pennsylvania law only required a buck to have three inches of visible antler to be considered a legal buck. Starting in 2002 the law was changed. Since that time bucks in our region are required to have three points on one side and each must be a minimum of an inch in length. The effect of this regulation change has made it possible for more bucks to survive to become true trophy animals. At the same time efforts were made to reduce the doe population. We now have an improved buck-doe ratio and a much better population of large bucks although the total deer population is somewhat lower.. Not all hunters are happy with this change, but how much of a trophy is a yearling buck sporting three inch spikes?

I for one support and appreciate the efforts of our Game Commission in improving our deer herd.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Pennsylvania’s Rural Holiday

Of all the holidays celebrated in rural Pennsylvania, Monday will be the largest. This holiday is always celebrated on the first Monday following Thanksgiving. Schools will close for one to two days. Factories will close for as much as the entire week! Many other businesses will be closed also. The population of our county began to rise Friday and will reach its annual peak by dawn Monday morning.

Hundreds of trucks and SUV’s will be parked by the roadsides. All available camping spots on state forest land will be occupied and blaze orange will be visible in nearly all vehicles moving on our country roads.

What is the cause of all this fervor and celebration? Deer Season!

I now look back at my youth; deer season was a big event for me, it was the time that Dad and Granddad would go out before dawn and oft times return with a mystical, nearly supernatural, mythical creature from the forest, The Buck! The buck would be hung to be admired and later processed into delicious venison.

In this photograph I am posing with one of Dad’s bucks around 1960. I remember his story of how he dropped this buck on what had been my Great Grandfathers farm at very long range. I never knew Dad to take a quick shot, and he very seldom missed. Now with his advancing years he has no interest in taking another deer.

I began deer hunting in 1966. My Grandfather and I set out to hunt the woodlot on our family farm. Shortly after dawn the rain began. Soon it was coming in wind driven sheets. I had no rain gear and was soon thoroughly soaked. I sat at the base of a tree I had picked because of the deer trails running near. In the downpour my youthful patients wore thin very quickly and by 8:00 I was wondering just how long I could hold out! A few minutes later I noticed a deer moving in the brush behind me. In a few moments his head and neck appeared from behind the small pines. A BUCK!!!

I could not believe my luck! My little Winchester 38-40 was already up, the front sight settled in the rear notch, I trained the sights on his white throat patch, as if by magic the little rifle cracked. At a mere fifteen yards, I had taken my first deer, a small eight-point! I felt like a king! I had just accomplished a right of passage into manhood. I was now a Deer Hunter!

Soon Granddad and Dad arrived and helped drag my trophy out. With the rain pouring down, they were glad to call it a day and retreat to the warm dry house. I remember the temperature dropping and by evening the first snow of the year was on the ground.

We never thought to photograph my buck until it was nearly too late
That was forty years ago! I can scarcely believe that time has flown so quickly. I have never missed a deer season, never missed opening day and have never gone a year without harvesting a deer. Many things have changed in all those years, but God willing,
I will be there, In the Woods
Watching and Waiting For

The Buck

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Meadow Grounds Falls, Part 2

The stream is aptly named Roaring Run. As one hikes along it the sounds it gives off rises from a murmur to a roar. I noticed the intensity most when I had left the gorge and was most impressed by the stillness. There is such beauty along the way that a hiker must go slowly and pause frequently to admire.

A decaying Hemlock log breaks the rushing current

Smaller sets of falls abound along the path

A gorgeous shelf falls nestles in the gorge surrounded by large Hemlock Trees

A rivulet of water creates a spectacular spray as it crashes into the rocks
As when traveling to all wild places
Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Tradition

When I was growing up our family’s way of spending Thanksgiving was different than most of America’s although not uncommon here in rural Pennsylvania at that time.

Thanksgiving was hog butchering day. I remember our family butchering on Thanksgiving from when I was a small child, too young to help. We continued the tradition until my Grandparents passed away in the mid ‘80’s. Granddad and Grandma would purchase pigs at the livestock auction in the spring. Raising the pigs was Grandma’s project. She would feed them a wet feed mixture twice daily along with corn on the cob. The weeds we pulled from the garden would also be carried to them. They would grow quickly and by Thanksgiving would normally weigh 225-275lbs.

When we were ready to begin Grandma would go in the house and turn up the radio so as not to hear the shots or the squeals if the shooting should go awry. Grandma’s attachment to her hogs ended once this part of the task was completed. Being the sturdy farmwife, she viewed the processing of her pets into the winters meat as just another part of life on the farm.

We actually did the butchering as a two day operation, Thursday we killed, scalded, scraped, hung, and gutted. Friday was reserved for cutting meat, grinding sausage, cooking lard, and applying the first of the sugar cure to the hams, shoulders, and bacons. Mom would refrigerate the sausage keeping it fresh until deer season the following week. She would always count on her successful hunters to provide venison burger to mix with the sausage and increase the lean content.

The old butcher kettle heating up for the hog scalding
Note the scalding barrel in the far right of the photo

Pork, soon to be made table ready

With Thanksgiving being a very busy work day our family always postponed the traditional feast until Sunday. My brother’s wife continues this tradition, although we now call it the pre-Buck-season dinner. As for the butchering, I alone continue this tradition by purchasing a slaughter hog from market each winter. This year, as in past years since my mothers passing, my father will spend the day with my wife and I, and yes, we will have the “traditional” Butterball!

These photos were taken the Thanksgiving of 1971.
This was the only time I can remember that we had a deep snow to butcher in.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Meadow Grounds Falls Revisited

Today I once again visited the Meadow Grounds Falls. I featured this falls in my October 6th post with a photograph I had taken about thirty years ago, today I returned for the first time since that day. My mission today was to photograph the falls digitally.

Access to the falls requires a hike taking about one and one half hours. The path is adequate for persons in reasonably fit conditions. Some sections are somewhat treacherous and one must exercise due caution. The stream must be waded numerous times.
I arrived at the largest falls before the sun had found its way into the narrow gorge. Our temperature was hovering around the freezing point and when the sun did arrive it was most welcome.

The gorge is strewn with large boulders. In this photo the first rays of sunlight peek over a boulder. I can only think that it would not be good to be here when one of these decides to fall from the mountain side.

A veil of water plummets from the west side on the falls.

A flat rock, nearly as perfect as a precast concrete slab, sits at the top.

The Meadow Grounds Falls in all of her glory!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pennsylvania Bear Season

Today was opening day of Pennsylvania’s state wide three day bear season. When I was young, bears in huntable numbers only existed in the northern most counties of the state. With the habitat changes and reintroduction efforts we now have a growing population of bears in nearly all rural areas.

Of all the game animals in Pennsylvania, only bear and deer must be hunted to control their numbers. Without hunting their population will grow beyond socially acceptable levels. Bears can cause considerable damage and can present a danger to the people who live with them. They will damage crops, orchards, bee hives, livestock, garbage cans and sometimes even homes. The hunting of them tends to remove the more aggressive animals who have less fear of humans thus reducing future conflicts

All bears legally harvested must be transported to a check station. There they are examined by Game Commission personnel. The bear is weighed, a tooth is removed, and hair and tissue samples are collected. The tooth will be examined later at the lab to determine the bears age.

A group of hunters arrived with what appears to be a bear family, a large sow along with two cubs. Although legal, I find the hunting down and killing an entire family of bears appalling.

A Game Commission Biologist interviews a successful hunter. The information he obtains will be entered into a data base. He will record time, date, and location of kill along with the hunter’s identification.

Once the check-in is complete a permanent tag is affixed to the animal identifying it as a legally harvested bruin.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Whitetail Rut

High excitement prevails in the Whitetail world during this time of the year for it is the annual mating season, commonly known of as the Rut. The bucks are searching frantically for willing females while at the same time defending their territory and breeding rights. At times violent battles will ensue and injuries may be sustained. Most injuries occur around the face although occasionally a fatal puncture wound will be incurred.

This buck is exhibiting the classic gait of a buck pursuing a doe. Bucks do not display this posture at any other time of the year.

Although this buck has sustained a serious injury to his right eye it has done nothing to quell his rutting fervor.

On this evening our injured buck challenged all bucks that dared to approach “his does” and even a buck larger that he gave ground, willing to move on rather than fight this battle scarred veteran.

The object of all their fervor seems totally unconcerned with
“The Boys Problems”!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Early 1900’s Style

Great Aunt Grace was posing in Style in her father’s motor car
Grace, born November 25th 1906 was my Grandfathers youngest sister. Grace married Rinehart, a young farmer and lived out her years as a farm wife. This coming Saturday will mark Grace’s 100th birthday. Colon cancer claimed her life in 1964

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Watering Trough

Along the side of Pa. Rt. 16 are the remnants of this old watering trough. It was used to water horses as they stopped to rest while climbing the Tuscarora Mountain. Later it was used to top off the radiators of the early cars. I remember my grandfather telling of the days when it was made of wood.

The water came to it through a pipe from a mountain spring. When I was a child we would haul our livestock to market across this mountain and frequently stop on our return to get a refreshing drink of the cool mountain water spilling continuously from the pipe. On a hot summer day it was a most welcome respite before continuing our trip home.

I remember my grandfather telling that in earlier years it was made of wood. The watering trough was a very useful piece of infrastructure whose time passed as technology improved. I remember my grandfather once saying that he had seen man go from the horse and buggy to the moon. Now I look back and can only marvel at the amazing progress that I have witnessed in my years. I am sure that my stories of “the old days” seem just as quaint to young folks now as Granddad’s did to me.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Tobacco Barns

What once was a common sight in rural Pennsylvania is quickly fading into history. I can remember when many roadside barns were used as tobacco advertising billboards. The farmers received a free paint job and the tobacco company received advertising, a good deal for both. Now days most are either gone or faded beyond recognition. This particular barn painted on its northern exposure, away for direct sunlight is the best I have came across.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Milkweed

A milkweeds seed pods open to release their precious contents

While roaming our familiar countryside, I noticed these milkweed pods glowing in the evening sun. The delicate white filaments attached to each seed were beautifully lit creating a gorgeous halo about each pod. Again it was time to seize the moment and capture the beauty that our creator had made.

An autumn breeze tugs at the seeds in an attempt to carry them away; some will fall on the rocks, others upon poor ground and yet others will find their way to new fertile soil and another generation of milkweeds will flourish.

A lone milkweed beetle surveys the seed pod. I wonder what is he thinking as he checks out the seed that will form the plants which will feed future generations of his descendants.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Successful Turkey Season

I concluded the fall 2006 turkey season successfully with the bagging of this fine gobbler sporting a ten inch beard.

Turkey hunting can be a frustrating sport at times as the birds can be very difficult to locate. Once located the wary birds have a way of frequently making it out unscathed.

This gobbler was the culmination of six full days spent in pursuit of the majestic birds.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Veterans Day

First known as Armistice Day, this day was set aside to honor the end of hostilities on the western front of World War One. The armistice took effect at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. Following WWII its designation was changed to Veterans Day.

How naive our leaders were for they called WWI the war to end all wars, yet in only two decades WWII was in the making. We have put our troops in harms way many times since that day, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, Panama, Grenada, Iraq, Bosnia, and Afghanistan to name a few. Our troops always go as ordered, that is their job.

Whether we as individuals agree with the actions of our government, it is always imperative that we support our fighting men and women. We cannot have another Viet Nam, where our troops returned only to find that many of our people mistreated them for doing the job that in many cases they had no choice but to do.

Today let us honor our troops, both past and present. They perform a service that without which we would not have the freedoms we so dearly cherish.

This photo is a memorial to our first local casualty in the current action in Iraq. The memorial is on his parent’s barn. Christopher was an army scout only in Iraq a month before an IED hit his convoy and took his life leaving behind a wife and two small sons.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Whitetail Family Time

Watching young fawns cavort about their mothers in summer is quite entertaining. In this brief moment the attention of both are drawn to the same place creating a beautiful pose.

As one spends considerable time interacting with deer they will be continually amazed at the depth of the social structure in the herd and their intelligence. Deer possess much greater intelligence than most humans give them credit for. Much of their actions seem to be based on this intelligence rather than instinct. They also seem to possess communication abilities that are outside of our range of hearing although biologists have never confirmed this possibility.

The knowledge of deer behavior gained from hunting them is considerable, but to really know deer one must move beyond the realm of hunting and truly become friends with a herd, only then can one gain a full appreciation for one of the most beautiful animals in God’s Creation.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Thanksgiving Gobblers?

These Eastern Wild Turkey Gobblers seem to be completely oblivious of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, as well they should be. I captured these two birds while on our photo shoot in Shenandoah National Park. Wildlife can be found in most rural areas but wildlife that behaves in a completely natural manner in our presence can only be found where hunting is not allowed. In settings such as these the wildlife views us as an inconvenience instead of a danger.

Regrettably Pennsylvania finds it imperative to allow hunting on virtually all of its public lands, thus to obtain good wildlife photos one must either work very hard or travel out of state. As a hunter I do approve of hunting but some areas should be set aside for non-consumptive uses of wildlife also. Wildlife conservation in Pennsylvania is funded entirely by hunters thus the Pa. Game Commission’s mission is to provide the maximum number of targets for it’s constituents to shoot.

Hopefully the day will soon come when wildlife conservation will be funded by all the people and wildlife can be managed for the good of all instead of for one special interest group.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election Day

First I must say, VOTE. No matter what you’re political persuasions, VOTE. It is our right, a right that many of our men and women have given their lives for. This right is the single most important right we have as a free country.

With that being said, I find it interesting to what lengths that some politicians will go to convince us to vote for them. I captured this image while traveling on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

I apologize for the photo’s quality as I shot it through my truck’s window as the campaign vehicle was passing on the highway.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Early Winter

This morning my brother and I traveled to Shenandoah National Park to search for rutting whitetail bucks. Of course while visiting a place so vast and beautiful the wildlife is not the only photo-worthy subjects to be found. As we climbed the mountain on Skyline Drive I noticed the outside thermometer in his truck continued to drop until it read only twenty degrees. Once on the top we noticed that a stiff west wind was blowing. The wind chill was so low that within a few minutes of leaving the shelter of his truck I found my fingers nearly too numb to function the camera. The Blue Ridge Mountains are very high for eastern mountains with the Hawksbill peak topping out at 4051 feet. The temperature at these higher elevations consistently ranges ten or more degrees below that of the valley floor.

At a small rock outcrop we found this formation of icicles. They were gleaming magnificently in the morning sun.

Later I captured this view of the Blue Ridge Mountains at one of the many scenic overlooks.

Oh, the bucks, they will be featured on later postings.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Forest Morning

The beautiful scenes in the autumn forest know no bounds. From animals to foliage to a gorgeous sunrise through the maze, I found this backlit scene to be particularly appealing. Soon somber grays will replace the brilliant colors of fall as we approach our winter season.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Woodland Friends

Let me introduce a few of my woodland friends to you. First we will meet Chip, our friendly chipmunk. Chip is busy gathering acorns for the cold winter ahead. He has been scurrying about busily carrying nuts to his home in the fallen log.

At times Chip stops to rest at the entrance to his home.

Next we meet Pilly, the pileated woodpecker. Pilly can really make a racket! She has been noisily banging away at the trees drilling holes to reach the tunneling insects beneath the bark. As she moves from tree to tree she fills the air with her shrill shrieks.

Last but no least we meet foxy. Foxy the fox squirrel is not happy sharing his woodland with an intruder. He cannot decide what he should do about me, whether he should run and hide or to simply go about his business. As a compromise Foxy decides to sit on the side of a tree and bark to inform all of his forest friends that something is amiss.

A day spent in the woodlands is never a day spent alone.