I've never been much of a morning person except for those occasions when it is prudent to be out and about early in the day, such as a fishing trip or deer season, of course. Last Sunday morning, my body clock was still set to "deer standard time" so I woke up right around dawn and feeling hungry. As I made breakfast, I realized the day was breaking bright and clear, which prompted me to grab my camera bag and take a ride to enjoy the beautiful morning.
I decided to begin my excursion with a swing through one of my regular haunts, Canoe Creek State Park. I had just entered the park when I spotted a couple of deer standing in a clearing about 75 yards off the road. I have watched deer at this particular spot many times, and closer inspection revealed there were actually five of them. Aware of my presence but not overly alarmed, they milled about for a few minutes and then disappeared into a nearby thicket.
I drove less than 50 yards from there and spotted about a dozen more deer placidly feeding in a field of dried goldenrod. At that point, a certain sense of irony tugged at me.
First, here it was, just 15 hours or so since the close of the regular deer season, and in less than five minutes, I was treated to seeing more deer here in the relative sanctuary of a small, no-hunting section of the park than I had been able to get a glimpse of in two weeks of hard hunting over hundreds of acres of open forest. Seeing deer just standing around was also somewhat of a novelty, as every deer I saw while hunting was doing about mach three. Except for one, that is, which paused for about two seconds after jumping from its bed. That whitetail now resides in my freezer.
With another deer season now in the books, however, a bunch of other hunting opportunities will help to provide outdoor recreation during the early winter. Small game seasons are already underway for grouse, pheasants, rabbits and squirrels.
Over the past several years, one late-season hunting opportunity I looked forward to was for pheasants as the Game Commission conducted a final stocking of birds, usually the week after deer season.
Unfortunately, that won't be occurring this year. Because of the severe flooding last September, more than 30,000 pheasants died or escaped from two game farms in Lycoming County.
Those losses represented nearly 30 percent of the birds scheduled to be stocked statewide and necessitated significant reductions in the year's overall stocking allocations. In order to minimize the impact of those reductions for the regular fall hunting season, the late-season stocking was eliminated for this year.
Duck season is currently open in many areas of the state. The late Canada goose season is also underway in areas of northwest and southeast Pennsylvania and runs until Jan. 25. Here in our region, the goose season starts on Dec. 20 and runs until Feb. 25 with a bag limit of five birds per day.
Waterfowl hunting regulations tend to be somewhat complicated, so make sure to consult the "2011-2012 Waterfowl Brochure" available on the Game Commission website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) for specific details on seasons, bag limits and hunting zones.
Of course, for those who still have an unfilled deer tag, the late archery and flintlock deer seasons will begin the day after Christmas and run until January 16.
These seasons provide a last-chance opportunity for die-hards to bag a deer under what can be some of the most trying conditions of the year.
And for all those who did get a deer, remember to report your kill (or kills) as required by law. Doing so is easier than ever.
You can now file kill reports online via the Game Commission website; by phone by dialing the toll-free number 1-855-PAHUNT1 (1-855-724-8681); or by filling out and mailing the traditional postpaid card that comes inside the "Hunting and Trapping Digest."