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Fun in a winter wonderland of hunting

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    A squirrel is no buck, but when it moves through the woods, as this writer will attest to, it can be mistaken for a deer. LISA PRICE/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published December 23. 2017 12:08AM

As the daylight waned, I was treated to a trickle of deer sightings.

First came the button buck, dumb as a fence post, wading noisily into a laurel bush to get his nose on a scent wick which I’d dipped into doe-in-heat scent. His sniffs were audible, loud puffing sounds and I fought the urge to laugh. Many times, as if to make certain, he sniffed the wick and looked carefully and hopefully around.

He’d found his heart’s desire, but he couldn’t see her anywhere. Finally, he reluctantly left, looking over his shoulder.

I could have shot him dozens of times. But I’d already dropped a doe earlier in the season and hoped for a nice buck.

Next a large spike appeared – he had twin spikes that looked as if he’d broken off both sides of a rack to create them. I’ll never know for sure; but I knew that even if he had been “legal” at one time he no longer was.

Next came a three-pointer and a four-pointer. Well, I thought, I’m working on a nice straight. Two, three and four; now, let’s see a five and six!

A huge doe slipped into the area, and stood near the scent wick in what I thought was an alluring manner. She seemed to be waiting for a buck, and I hoped one was following her trail.

She left, going out of sight, and many minutes passed. I checked the time, noting I had about 15 minutes left for legal shooting. Then I heard a stealthy step, step, step through the dry leaves. Its approach was blocked by thick cover, but I’d made a shooting lane. If it continued along the same line of travel, it would soon appear in the opening.

Unbidden, my breathing and heart rates jumped. I remember that I missed trying to attach my release to the bow string and had to look down to get it right.

I stood and faced the tree, making such the tether for my safety harness would be out of the way.

It appeared in the shooting lane. It was a squirrel.

Those varmints!

I swear my property is overloaded with Boone & Crockett caliber squirrels. Not to mention rabbits that during the summer are bold enough to eat plants by my kitchen door and raise their young along the edges of my woodpile.

And during archery season, I’d seen a gorgeous red fox easily a half-dozen times.

Archery and flintlock hunters will soon have two weeks to try to punch their tags. The late season, which runs Dec. 26 to Jan. 13 this year, has always been one of my favorite seasons. I love the comparative quiet of the woods that time of year, and its peacefulness.

But hunters can also pursue predators (coyote, fox, opossum, raccoon, striped skunks and weasels, until Feb. 18; bobcats until Jan. 7) and small game to include squirrels and rabbits (until Feb. 28).

Hunters can also try to scare up pheasants until Feb. 28, although stocking has ceased.

It’s a fact that according to statistics on license sales, our numbers are steadily decreasing. And it’s tough to take a youngster deer hunting when there can be long periods of inactivity; hunting small game with its action can greatly increase their excitement for the sport.

There’s no time like the present to have fun in the winter wonderland of the Pennsylvania woods.

Plus, I have a bone to pick with a certain squirrel.

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