On page A2 of this past Wednesday's Altoona Mirror, a photograph by J.D. Cavrich stopped me in my tracks.
Without a word, it epitomized what autumn is, what it means - life's unchanging cycle continuing. It was a photo of geese (and I don't much admire geese) near a pond, standing under a burnished gold tree. That photo spoke to me, evoked a stirring within me that hits just about this time every year. This photo really is worth more than a thousand words.
Well, anyway, this weekend ushers in small game hunting. Rabbit, pheasant, various small game, junior seasons, and the archery seasons for deer which are beginning to take a more exciting turn as the rut approaches. This weekend also offers an antlerless deer season for both junior and senior hunters.
I'm taking a day off on Saturday to pursue antlerless deer. The senior license has been about the best bargain I've ever had. I got mine 12 years ago, and it is the best $50 I've ever spent. So on Saturday, my deer hunting buddy, Dick Ryan, and I will look in some favorite places for an antlerless deer for the freezer.
Typically, in hunting seasons, and for the hunter's convenience, many roads that are usually closed to vehicle traffic are opened. To that end the Pennsylvania Game Commission has developed and posted an online listing of maps that depict roads opened seasonally to provide hunters and trappers greater access into interior portions of State Game Lands. These roads are opened to provide hunters and trappers better access to the State Game Lands system.
Statewide, the Commission opens more than 400 miles of seasonally-opened roads on State Game Lands. These roads are important to the public; their openings are based on hunting seasons, road conditions and safety. Sometimes, however, some roads remain closed if conditions warrant. Storm run-off following hurricanes, or excessive erosion due to water damage are just a couple reasons for not opening a particular road.
To access the information, go to the Game Commission's website - www.pgc.state.pa.us - and click on Seasonal SGL Road Openings in the Quick Clicks box in the right-hand column. From this page, choose the region of interest to view its listing of State Game Lands with seasonally-open roads, the period each road is opened, and a map to help pin-point the road that is open.
To open the map, click on the State Game Land number. For a more detailed map of each State Game Land, select State Game Lands Maps in the center of the agency's homepage or under Quick Clicks.
Then choose the region of interest from the map. The region map will enable you to identify the State Game Land number of interest, which you can then select in the drop-down menu under State Game Lands Maps.
It is stunning and terrible news that the first case of Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in Pennsylvania. Because it was found at an enclosed deer farm in central Pennsylvania. It is hoped it can be quarantined and prevented from spreading. Time will tell about that.
For deer hunters, it is an alert. First, there is no evidence that humans can contract this disease from animals. It is spread among animals by contact with bodily fluids. Second, if you see a deer that seems sick or weak do not shoot it. Wear rubber gloves while field-dressing a deer. Tuck a small bottle of antibacterial cleanser in your gear and use it lavishly after you finish handling/cleaning a deer.
The diseased deer was found at the deer farm near Williamsport by the owner, who promptly reported it to the Game Commission. Proper steps were taken to quarantine the property so the disease would not be able to spread among the wild deer herd. Hunters need to be watchful while in the woods, report any deer that seem not normal, but enjoy the season. No need to panic.
I wonder now if the buck I found in deer season a couple years ago was a victim of this disease. I never gave that possibility a thought then, but the buck, a beautiful 10 pointer, had obviously been dead a couple days when I came upon it on the morning of opening day.
When my hunting buddy and I examined that deer the next day, we discovered that one side of the deer looked quite emaciated while the other side looked normal.
It just did not have an appearance of normality but because all the reporting was done by telephone, and because I did not have CWD on my mind then, this deer was not examined. It's just something now that I will always wonder about.