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It’s that time of year again, Pt. II

It is now “that time of year again,” but Part Two.

A month ago your firewood had better have been laid up and close to perfectly dry, or you were going to have an uncomfortably cold winter in rural America.

Now, a month later, a whole bunch of hunting seasons are upon us. Small game, trapping, deer archery, bear archery…and many people are afield a serious amount of time. Some people try to catch the deer rut in a couple different states with their bow. It can become a crazed time, where the humans are just as worn down and rutted up by the prospect of catching unawares a big old wary buck who, in his brief moment of annual craziness, lets down his guard.

Usually, I do not begin trapping in earnest until December, when all pelts are truly prime and when the bobcat and fisher seasons begin. Early on I set out cage traps to thin out the skunks and possums that will otherwise clog up my best sets later on. Never one to sell furs, trapping for me has always been about helping ground-nesting birds against an overabundance of nest-raiding mammals pulsing out from suburban sprawl habitats. With Russia and China in bad financial and economic situations the past five years, wild fur has not been in as big demand as the past. This lower demand has led many professional trappers to abandon their lines and wait for prices to come back up. In turn, that let-off in trapping pressure results in TONS of raccoons, possums, skunks etc running around. Over the past couple of weeks I have seen more road-kill raccoons than in many years past all together.

And this high population of raccoons means higher rates of rabies, trash-raiding, fights with pets, etc.

My favorite type of hunt is the solo wilderness excursion. Sleeping in a cold tent, bundled against the night time freeze, waking up to some snow on everything, enjoying a hot tea to start the day, and wandering into the wind, trying to find buck or bear tracks. Or in the case of a big male bear, making sure he isn’t on my track, like two years ago.

Is there danger in this? Sure. Then there is danger in being hit by a car, or falling and damaging a body part. There is danger in never experiencing life, and thinking that the modern risk-free cocoon most of us live in is either normal or healthy. It is neither.

And so it is that time of year again, when every fiber in my body says “Get outside, NOW!” It is a time of forgotten or deliberately misplaced professional obligations, phone calls returned on a Friday afternoon, instead of the prior Monday morning. I hope friends and colleagues will forgive me if I am a little late in getting back.

Nature is calling on the phone, it’s for me, and I gotta run.

I’ll be back. Promise.

Hunters Sharing the Harvest sets the Holiday Season tone

Pennsylvania is a long time big time hunting state, with such a great and famously known outdoors sports tradition that the iconic red and black “buffalo check plaid” wool coat made by Woolrich, Filson, and other long established wool clothing manufacturers was dubbed the “Pennsylvania Tuxedo” back in the 1920s.

Today our clothing may have improved since then, or may not have improved, depending upon whether you like your hunting pants to be flammable, or not, and I do not (which means I prefer wool in all outdoor clothing), but one thing remains steady: Pennsylvanians rightly love to hunt.

And just as much as we love to hunt, we are also generous with the fruits of our time afield. We have a long tradition of sharing the fruits of our hunting labors.

Well do I recall as a kid waking up in late November or early December to find some fresh venison left on our doorstep by one or two of our neighbors, all of whom had big farms and all of whom were big time hunters.

Back then in that area, kids brought fresh venison jerky to school to share and trade with other kids during and right after deer season; everyone had their own proprietary jerky recipe that they liked and were proud of. Sharing venison is a real longstanding Pennsylvania tradition.

Back in 1991, local hunter John Plowman had a vision to harness that generous spirit among Pennsylvania hunters and use it to provide for the needy. He started Hunters Sharing the Harvest, which today annually supplies well over a hundred thousand of pounds of fresh, free range, wholesome, lean, natural, organic meat to Pennsylvanians in need. That translates into about 667,000 annual “meals” for individuals and families in need.

Yesterday my son “harvested” his first Pennsylvania deer (see photo below), a young spike buck that junior hunters are allowed to take, as the rest of us are limited to bucks with at least three points to a side of the antler rack. As we had incredible good fortune yesterday, and took other deer, my son decided to donate his deer to Hunters Sharing the Harvest. My boy is enjoying the act of charity and contributing towards the basic welfare of his community.

Both Deimler (Cumberland County) and Sensenig (Dauphin County) are deer processors close by our home, so either one would be the logical place to drop off the young buck.  But Deimler has the advantage of being right down the road from Johnson’s Furs, where we have our furs tanned and where we buy our trapping supplies, so that is where the critter has been dropped off.  Mutli-tasking, ya know?

And that is the neatest thing about this Hunters Sharing the Harvest option: We get to share our cake, and eat it, too, in the charitable spirit of the Holiday Season.