As a teenager I can remember the anticipation leading up to the opening day of buck season, it was almost as exciting as Christmas when I was even younger.
Here, in Pennsylvania, opening day is the Monday following Thanksgiving. When I was growing up it was an unofficial holiday. Very few students actually went to school on opening day and after a while I guess the school district figured they would just add it to the school calendar and make it an official school closing.
Usually, during the week of Thanksgiving we sight in our rifles and ensure they are in good working order. We built a shooting table and a 100 yard target across the street that we use quite often during the fall season. We also like to make a trip into the woods to the deer stands to make any repairs and to clear brush from the shooting lanes.
The days leading up to opening day are filled with preparation, ensuring that we have all our gear packed neatly in a backpack or set out and ready to go:
Hand Warner’s? Check
Blaze orange vest? Check
Snacks & drinks? Check
Field dressing kit? Check
Depending on the weather, this list could get quite extensive in order to keep warm and dry. I’m always hopeful for that perfect day: 1-2 inches of snowfall Sunday afternoon/evening and a light snowfall Monday morning that ends by 10:00 AM with clear cool skies throughout the day. Unfortunately, here in southwestern Pennsylvania, this perfect day has only occurred a handful of times that I can recall.
Regardless of the weather we make our annual trek into the woods bright and early opening day. This year we had a light rain and temps in the 40’s as my son, Sawyer, & I headed down the road in the side by side. We were awake by 5:30 AM, ate a fresh egg breakfast, on the road by 6:15 AM, and in the stand by 6:40AM. Sunrise was at 7:23 AM, so we were settling into our positions just as we were able to start making out shapes in the distance. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that we got the side by side stuck in the swamp, below the beaver dam, where we cross the creek by 6:25 AM!
As the morning wore on the light rain would come and go and by noon we had yet to see a single deer. Typically, the deer population in our area is quite high. In years past I have joked with friends that come to hunt that the deer around here are like rats in the NYC sewer system, they’re everywhere! But it seems that this year, that is not the case. The hills around us were unusually quiet this year.
We decided to head back to the house (walking) to grab a bite to eat for lunch. Deanna, had made Turkey and dumplings for lunch, you gotta love Thanksgiving leftovers. After we ate, rested, and warmed up a bit we headed back to the stand hopeful for the afternoon. My brother, Dirk, gave us a ride back to the side by side on his four wheeler. We chained the rear of his four wheeler to a tree and used the winch on the front of his four wheeler to get our side by side out of the muck.
As Sawyer & I were walking up the hill to our stand we startled a deer and it went bounding past our stand into the woods. We couldn’t tell if it was a buck or a doe, but it gave us hope none the less. Shortly after getting settled in the stand, around 2:00 PM, we saw a small doe running up the hill behind the stand, things were looking up.
Then the rain started. Off and on, all afternoon, the rain was flowing and the temperature slowly dropping. By the time we were ready to leave we had a slushy freezing rain pouring on the metal roof of our stand.
So, opening day was not a success in the sense of harvesting a deer, however, I feel that the day is more than that. It is a day to bond with family & friends and of making memories, while passing along the skills of hunting to the next generation! In that sense, the day was a huge success!