Opening Day of Buck Season


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.

Shooting table

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:

Gloves? Check

Hat? Check

Hand Warner’s? Check

Knife? Check

Blaze orange vest? Check

Snacks & drinks? Check

Field dressing kit? Check

…… Etc…..

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!

A couple of views from our deer stand

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.

Beaver dam where we cross the creek to our deer stand

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!


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Hunting – a skill worth learning

Hunting is one of the most basic skills of humanity and one that I feel everyone should learn. From the dawn of time, man has had to hunt in order to survive.

In todays fast-paced lifestyles of drive-thru burgers and supermarket prepackaged meals, hunting is also one of the skills that is least used by many today.

I’m a country boy and grew up hunting from an early age, but for many years I was trapped in the rat race and could never find the time to hone my hunting skills. Last year I was able to leave the rat race behind and have once again taken up hunting. I was a basic hunter many years ago, rifle hunting deer and small game hunting with a shotgun. There are many types of hunting that I hope to learn and participate in this coming year.

Currently, in Southwestern Pennsylvania, archery and small game are in season. Archery is one of those skills I plan on picking up and learning as much as possible. Small game hunting, on the other hand, I had been doing since I was old enough to hunt. However, when I was growing up we used shotguns, this year, my son and I started using .22 rifles to hunt squirrel. Using a .22 is definitely more challenging, especially when you consider we decided to use open sites, not a scope.

Rifle season for deer is right around the corner and we will be sighting in our guns in the next few weeks. This will be the second year that my son, Sawyer, has gone deer hunting and we are both getting quite anxious and excited.

Check out Save Our Skills YouTube channel, we recently posted a video on Skinning a deer. A neighbor of ours, R.T., harvested an 8 point buck last week and we were fortunate enough to video the processing of it. You will notice in the video that the deer was not field dressed. We skinned the deer first, then dressed it, and finally butchered it. That process is a little out of sync, we would normally field dress the deer prior to skinning.


If your going to hunt deer or small game, your going to need a few “tools”.

The first of course being a rifle and/or a shotgun. For deer I use a bolt action Tikka 25-06 and my son, Sawyer, uses a bolt action Ruger 30-06. For squirrel I use a single shot Rossi combo rifle with a 12 gauge or a .22 long rifle barrel and Sawyer uses a Henry model H001T lever action .22LR. These tools will help you get your prey, but there are a few more items you’ll need to get it on the table.

Henry .22LR Model H001T
Rossi Combo Rifle .22LR/12ga

Next you’ll need a good knife to gut, skin, and butcher your game. For deer, a good knife would be a Mora knife from Sweden. Mora of Sweden was formed in 2005 through the merger of Frosts Knivfabrik and KJ Eriksson. A MoraknivĀ® (Mora knife) is always a knife from Mora of Sweden.The company is still family-owned and develops and manufactures knives which are delivered to all parts of the world. All Mora knives are made in Sweden. When it comes to squirrel, all that is needed for the job is a Gerber EAB (exchange a blade). Make sure you check the Save Our Skills YouTube site for an upcoming video on processing squirrel.

Mora Knife, Gerber EAB

Gerber EAB (Exchange a blade)
Gerber EAB



Here are a few other items that may be useful in your hunting quest.

Deer Stand – Set up and wait at the perfect location

Bleat call – Lure that big one in close to the stand

Butt Out tool – An awesome addition to your field dressing kit.

Rubber gloves – Another great item for your field dressing kit

Deer drag – To haul that trophy buck out of the woods

Gambrel – To hang and process your deer


Happy hunting,


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