Outdoor Opportunities By COL(Ret.) Grey D. Berrier II
How’s your vocabulary? Even though I’m no longer in school and required to take weekly vocab quizzes, I fi nd I’m constantly learning new words. Part of that has to do with having three adult children and a son-in-law. Between those four “twentysomethings” in my life, I often hear them use new words or more familiar words given new defi nitions. Take this past Monday, I started out my day on the phone having to resolve a matter with our healthcare provider and then spent the rest of the morning running errands with my wife. In today’s vernacular according to our kids, I spent my time “adulting”. You know, doing those required tasks mature people have to do during the course of their daily lives, such as: go to work, pay their bills, clean the house, run errands, cook dinner, and otherwise be a normal, functioning member of society. After I completed my obligatory “adulting”, I was ready to reward myself with an afternoon flintlock muzzleloader hunt, when I knew I would pretty much have the woods all to myself. I decided to hunt behind our house and as I walked across the yard, I was still 25 yards from the wood line when three deer jumped up about 40 yards back in our woods and took off running. Now, in just about any other year, this would have perfectly set up one of my favorite ways to hunt. Knowing that I immediately got on their fresh tracks early in my hunt, I would have spent the remainder of the afternoon tracking them for miles, if necessary, with the hope they would eventually stop to watch their back trail and permit me to get within 75 yards, see them amidst all the available cover, and then take a shot using the open sights on my .50 cal. flintlock muzzleloader. That’s what would have happened, that’s what should have happened, but this year isn’t like past year’s flintlock “late seasons”, because we just don’t have any snow!
Last year in fl intlock season, I hunted up in Venango County in 8-inches of pristine snow and had thousands of acres all to myself as I came across fresh deer, coyote, and porcupine tracks. Being rather slow-moving and oblivious to predators, based on the protection offered by their imposing quills, I was following one porcupine’s meandering tracks through the snow-covered hemlocks until I got within 5 feet and was able to take some awesome photographs. In past years, I‘ve trailed elusive bucks for hours in the snow that have wormed through dense thickets, forcing me to crawl on my knees, in their efforts to shake me off their trails. Back in 2015, I played cat-and-mouse with a wily coyote for three hours down in Beaver County, who was smart enough to eventually work his way to a southeasterly facing slope where the snow was rapidly melting off, so I could no longer fi nd his fresh tracks. I saw him three times during my pursuit, but he was either too far off or moving too quickly to offer a good shot with my fl intlock rifl e. Now, I know snow is a four-letter word with some folks and those individuals who hate snow are pretty happy that Nov. 2018, Dec. 2018, and the fi rst part of Jan. 2019 have been relatively snow free in our area. But, the warmer temperatures and lack of snowfall are really starting to disrupt “normal” Winter outdoor pursuits. Besides “late season” deer and coyote hunters, there are many small game hunters who relish pursuing rabbits, squirrels, or even pheasants with a soft, white backdrop of new fallen snow. Looking ahead to the long-range forecast for Feb. 2019, it appears temperatures will remain above average, so ice-fi shing enthusiasts may never get a chance to safely venture out on “hard water” with their array of tip-ups and jigging rods. It’s also not looking good to either cross-country ski or camp in the snow locally this Winter, so I may have to start considering a trip North to either the Erie area or Western New York, if I want to pursue either of those outdoor activities in the fi rst few months of 2019. I feel for the children who may not have a chance to sledride, build a snowman, or have a snowball fi ght this Winter. I hope I don’t offend you, but I’m praying for snow! God Bless, Be Safe, and Great Outdoors! ©WBB 2019