Brett, Gary, Mike, Shawn, Todd and I arrived at Camp F-Troop on Friday night with high hopes for a repeat of last year’s bear opener. The main character from those events even made a return appearance – this time in the form of a fine rug.
Saturday morning Brett hit the woods a couple hours earlier than the rest of us. On our drive to the Game Lands we hunt there were several trucks lining the roadway – a sure sign that there was a large number of hunters already afield. We were somewhat surprised to see a dozen vehicles already at Game Lands’ lot when we got there. Not long after we entered the woods we saw a very large coyote running next to the creek to our left. It made the mistake of heading toward the trail, but managed to stay just out of range as Mike let loose a shot from his trusty 30.06. The ‘yote scooted his hind quarters in terror before darting across the trail and heading up the mountain, none the worse for wear.
Shawn and Todd headed up the mountain toward their respective hunting spots, but there was no repeat of last year. Gary stayed along the trail, near the front face that shadows the Allegheny River. Mike and I continued on our way. During our mile-and-a-half trek we encountered a couple of hunters along the trail, and saw a few other smatterings of orange throughout the day. We all posted on rocks familiar to us from hunting the area during deer an flintlock seasons. I posted on Don’s Rock, Mike on Steven’s Rock, Shawn on F-Rock and Todd on Billy’s Rock. Brett was roving the top of the mountain after walking more than two miles in on the trail. All of us saw deer, including two bucks for Brett and possibly one for Todd. Todd also saw a turkey, and had a report that a large buck was spotted from his spot earlier in the day. He also had a nice chat with a local resident, who said someone in their party missed a bear in the closest valley to our north. It was a quiet day overall, with only a handful of shots ringing out.
The weather changed frequently – from clear to snowing – but there was a steady, cold breeze the entire time as the temperature dropped into the 20s. We remained on watch until mid-afternoon when a predicted snow storm settled in for the duration. There was an inch on the ground as we walked back to our vehicles in the hardest squall of the day.
After a quick stop at camp we headed into the check station. As usual, it didn’t disappoint. Through the first 45 bears checked, the largest was at 431 pounds. We noted that two bears were again taken out of the valley we fish on the opening day of trout season, and a big one was killed a mile north of where we were during the day, in Brokenstraw Township. With that, bear season was over – for us at least. Though it continues on Monday and Tuesday, we only hunt the opener.
Sunday morning we loaded an old kerosene tank in Gary’s truck for disposal. We closed up and headed home in what ended up being treacherous conditions. Though there was 2-4 inches of snow from camp through Titusville, the stretch of 417 between Route 8 and Franklin was downright nasty as snow levels eclipsed 12 inches and the roadway was covered and icy. Things only got better after getting to the south side of Franklin as snow totals fell back to the 2-4 inch range.
This weekend several of us will be making a return trip for rifle season. Though I don’t hunt the big woods on opening day, I do go up and sight in my guns and enjoy the social side of deer camp before coming home Sunday morning.