One of the best investments I ever made was my Senior Citizen hunting license.
I've been using it for over a decade now and I get plenty of pop for my money. It does have to be renewed every year, however, and like most, the heat and business of summer pushes thoughts of deer hunting to the back of my mind.
But on July 9, County treasurers will begin accepting applications for antlerless licenses in the state. So, as you read this, if you haven't yet purchased your hunting license, you have one week to get it done if you want to send a timely application for an antlerless license. Page 45 of the new license digest outlines the procedures for applying.
Buck Alt, 93, sits next to his blind and his beat-up bird, his 2012 trophy.
My hunting buddy from the Poconos, Buck Alt, has been using his senior license for over 25 years! I met Buck about 35 years ago, when I traveled to the area to go on a field trip with his son, Dr. Gary Alt, as Gary visited a bear den. Gary was head of the black bear program in the state at the time and when he invited me to be one of the press to attend, I couldn't get there fast enough.
Buck was always Gary's right hand man in the daily operations of researching bears and their dens. Buck devised one of the first radio collars that were used for tracking bears, and Buck piloted the plane that Gary used to fly over the mountains tracking bears by telemetry.
Well, it doesn't take long for those afflicted with wild turkey fever to find each other and sure enough, Buck and I were soon chasing bear cubs and taking photos but chatting about our deeper affliction - chasing wild gobblers.
We decided to hunt gobblers together. I found a most unusual and delightful hunting buddy in this man. He didn't take up gobbler hunting until he retired from dairy farming at 65 years old. Then he began to drive all over Wayne County early spring mornings getting a bead on gobbling birds. So the first day I arrived in this northern section of the state, Buck said," I know where every bird in Wayne County is roosted. But I don't know much about calling so I'll get us to the birds, then the strategy and calling is up to you."
We shook hands on the deal and hunted together for the next 20 years plus. Bizarre and comical things seemed to mark our hunts. Every one was a different adventure. Nothing was ever easy it seemed and nothing every happened conventionally.
We often forded a creek to get to the hunting ground on the far side. One day we were in his little Volkswagen driving to a hunting site when we came upon some road construction on this narrow, winding, 2 lane country road. Seems they were installing a new pipe under the highway and there was a flagman there and he waved us on.
But a huge piece of road machinery, that had tires taller than the car, suddenly began to back out onto the road. Buck gunned the car and swerved off the road and into a ditch, saving our lives. We would have been crushed like a bug had that piece of machinery run over us and we barely escaped. Just another one of the many times in my life when my squadron of guardian angels did their duty.
Another time, I shot a gobbler that flopped down into a narrow but very deep creek. It was caught up into the current and was going downstream faster than I could keep up. I was screeching like a helpless female and Buck emerged from his hiding place and came galloping toward me. He thought I was hurt and by now the gobbler was caught up in a whirlpool and was going around and around in the current, sinking a little more with each revolution. Buck grabbed up a long branch and fished that bird out of the creek.
Never in my life have I seen a sorrier sight than that totally wet turkey. Al I lifted it up, water poured out of every feather. I took no pictures of that one. I could write a book filled with Buck's and my adventures together. Maybe I will someday.
Buck is now 93 years old. This past spring, he and his son Gary went hunting in New York and set up his blind in a field edge. The calling they did persuaded some gobblers to approach and Buck got a shot.
The bird flopped so Gary darted out of the blind and tackled the bird to keep it from getting away. The bird kept squirting forward and Gary kept throwing himself at it with the result that most of the bird's tail feathers were torn away as well as most of the body feathers. It was quite a wrestling match but finally Gary won the battle but the poor bird had to be patched together so they could get some passable photos. Carefully they laid the loose tail feathers in the right place and took some photos of the patched-up bird.
No pictures however, of the scratches Gary sustained trying to subdue this flopping bird. Hunting with Buck Alt seems always to have some sort of bizarre ending.
I haven't been able to travel up there to hunt with Buck for the last couple years and how I miss that. Maybe this spring. But Buck Alt has surely gotten his money's worth out of this senior citizen license. He get a deer or two every fall, too.