The Great Outdoors: One More Chance for Die-hard Deer Hunters

hunting-164717_1280-2The post-Christmas deer seasons provide die-hard hunters with one more chance to put some meat in the freezer.

The deer hunters that tote a flintlock or a bow into the woods for the three-week season that ends on January 14 know their odds at connecting are pretty low, but sometimes the experiences are that much more memorable.

The post-Christmas season used to be much more known for flintlockers, but with moderating weather, bow hunters are finding it easier to tolerate a few hours in a tree stand.

While I have yet to take up that sport, I have had some enjoyable times hunting with a muzzleloader.  It’s one of the few seasons left that truly features primitive weapons. With technological advances, it’s hard to consider today’s compound bows or crossbows primitive, unless you are carrying a recurve or long bow…. Now, that’s a challenge!

Flintlock rifles have had some improvements, too. Hunters can use conical bullets, and some rifles are made with synthetic stocks, which greatly decreases the weight of the gun.  Even so, I just can’t get into carrying those lighter guns. Something just doesn’t feel right.

The rifle I use is a Connecticut Valley Arms 50-caliber with a set trigger. It was made in Spain, and it weighs about 10 pounds. After a day carrying it around, you know it.  I bought it from an acquaintance who used it for a few years after buying it from a guy he knew who used it for nearly 50 years!  I have had it for nearly 20 years.  I’ve taken a few deer with it, but only in the early season.  What I have done in the late season is a lot of missing!  I am definitely no marksman with it, and I prefer to keep my shots at 30 yards or so.

The best times hunting deer with the flintlock was with the family of a girl I was dating back in the late 1990’s. Her dad and brother were die-hards, and they shared their expertise with me.  There’s a ton of advice floating around out there, but hunting with people that have used the guns and know what works best is invaluable.  They got others into the hunting, and when you have eight or 10 people, you can really up the odds on getting a crack at a deer when putting on drives.  They knew the woods well around their camp in Elk County near the Allegheny National Forest, and it paid off in the chances that hunters in their group had at getting a shot.

Now, those chances rarely resulted in bagging a deer, but it was fun trying.  I really still believe I should have connected once, maybe twice.  Those occasions are still seared in my mind.

The area around that camp was a mix of considerable hemlock cover and chunks of timbered ground. Nearby were a few small, farm fields.  It was a good combination to hold a good number of deer.  One drive was through a timber cut, and it had grown up in small beech saplings, blackberry bushes, and other habitat deer prefer.  It was a square patch, and driving it was easy for even those who weren’t familiar with the area.  The biggest decision was which way to drive it.  We usually alternated the direction to try and keep the deer guessing.

One time, I was posted, hoping for the drivers to push a deer my way.  Lo and behold, here comes one, and it’s on the trail I’m watching. I had time to get ready and pulled the rear trigger back to set the front one.  That deer was going to pass within feet of me, and I figured it was as sure a thing I would have.  I was crouched under a medium hemlock, and I shouldered the gun, just waiting.  The deer crossed the forestry road that led to some other camps and was used by timber cutters.  As it stepped into the woods near me, I pulled the trigger and the gun sounded off “Kaboom!”  

When the smoke cleared, I really expected to see the deer lying nearby, but instead it was her white tail waving goodbye!  How had I missed? 

Well, I hadn’t missed, I had connected dead center but with a large oak tree!  How did I forget about that big oak tree? It wasn’t small, and it was only a few feet from me, but I guess the excitement of getting such a good chance blinded me from seeing that tree.  It did provide a good laugh for everyone, and that’s usually what flintlock season means, happy to have a chance or two and maybe get a shot.

Heck, just getting the gun to go off is a triumph sometimes!

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“The Great Outdoors,” sponsored by the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors, is a weekly blog by exploreClarion.com’s Scott Shindledecker. Plan your next outdoor adventure at VisitPAGO.com or call (814) 849-5197 for more information.


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