This Thursday begins the extended deer seasons, muzzleloader and bow and arrow only. It is the toughest and hardiest among us who go out in Pennsylvania's weather after Christmas to try to get a deer, especially with archery equipment and I admire those who do it. Especially this year.
My best hunting buddy says she will be out with her bow in the extended season because she has her eye on a particular buck that lives in her area. It has been spotted every now and then for the last several years and I can testify that it will no doubt be a record-book buck if it is taken. She passes up all shots at "lesser" bucks to hunt for that one. I admire this kind of determination. Because I am able to hunt only one week during deer season, I don't hold out for a trophy.
So she, along with hundreds of other brave souls, will be out with bow and arrow, running her tree stand up icy tree trunks, swaying with the bitter wind, waiting for the bruiser buck to come along. Good luck.
Actually, there are lots of opportunities for small game and coyote hunting now. The small game seasons are as follows: squirrel, Dec. 26 to Feb. 22; Ruffed Grouse, Dec. 26 to Jan. 25; rabbit, Dec. 26 to Feb. 22; and snowshoe hare, Dec. 26-Jan. 1. In addition, pheasants (males and females) will be open from Dec. 26 to Feb. 22 in WMUs 1A, 1B, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4D, 5C and 5D.
By now, most of us have our artificial Christmas trees in place. They are beautiful and I have a couple of them myself. But according to the National Wildlife Federation, until the middle of the nineteenth century, any family that wanted a Christmas tree either cut the tree themselves or ordered one from a farmer. In the mid 1850's, a New Yorker named Mark Carr started that city's first Christmas tree business.
Carr lived in the Catskills 8 miles north of New York City. In mid-December of 1851, Carr filled two ox-sleds with young firs and spruces, loaded them on a steamboat and sold them for a good profit at New York's Washington market. By 1880, a veritable forest of 200,000 trees was moving to Washington market from all over the northeast. Although cedar trees were popular in the 1860's, by 1880 the fashion had switched to evergreens that dried more slowly, creating less of a fire hazard when decorated with lighted candles.
Up in Maine, balsam first had always been considered a nuisance because they grew like weeds. But in 1892 a steam yacht returning to Boston from Newfoundland stopped at a small town on Maine's Penobscot Bay.
The yacht owner loaded 500 young balsam trees and sold them in Boston' s Christmas market. Within a few years, balsam became New England's favorite tree and the Christmas trade sparked an economic boom for Maine.
In the Midwest, Christmas trees for cities like Chicago came largely by boat from the forests of Michigan. As early as 1887, two brothers named Schuenemann sailed from Michigan in their fishing schooner with a load of trees lashed to the deck. They tied up beside Chicago's Clark Street Bridge and began selling their trees. Eventually, the Schuenemann Christmas tree ships became part of Chicago history.
By 1920, Christmas tree cultivation had become a profitable business in many parts of the country. In fact, Indiana became known later as the Christmas tree capital of the world. While many folks still enjoy having a live Christmas tree, attitudes have changed. We can't just go out in the woods anymore and cut down a tree. Now we go to local tree farms to do that chore and for some it is a very pleasant Christmas tradition. Most of us, however, have caved in and gotten an aluminum tree and decorate it with special lights etc.
Some folks buy living trees in a pot, which they can plant after Christmas. A good idea. Some like to decorate their live Christmas trees with suet and bird-seed bells and the like for the use of birds in the winter. Fishing clubs often have a project of gathering used Christmas trees and using them to create structure in large lakes for the benefit of fish. Also a good idea.
Used trees tossed on a brushpile in the back forty helps provide small game cover. Or cut it up for firewood for the next year.
Another interesting outdoor Christmas tradition is decking the halls with holly. In ancient Rome, According to the report by the national Wildlife Federation, holly wreaths were sent to newlyweds to express good luck. Ancient Romans believed holly warded off evil spirits. In England of long ago it was believed the holly protected against dogs and wild beasts so at Christmas every house, church, street corner and market place in London was decorated with holly.
When the earliest settlers to America discovered holly growing here, they welcomed it as a touch of "home." Indians of Pennsylvania used holly as a badge of courage while New Jersey Indians used the wood for tomahawk handles. Tribes to the south drank holly tea to give them strength. All these traditions of Christmas mean nothing to wildlife, however; they are locked in a battle to survive.