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Young and old can find joy in getting their first deer

(Editor’s Note: Shirley Grenoble has been writing about the outdoors for decades. A nationally known woman of the outdoors, Shirley has been hunting and fishing in Pennsylvania and other states for more than 58 years. This column is compliments of the Altoona Mirror newspaper.)

By SHIRLEY GRENOBLE

sports@altoonamirror.com

On a recent trip I was on where the senior and junior antlerless season was taking place, it turned out to be such an exciting and successful time for both me and the hunters.

First and most important, a couple of junior hunters bagged their first deer and that was so exciting.

Two young folks, Samantha Carter and Talen Hamer, both from Armstrong County, each accompanied by an adult, bagged their deer on a Saturday morning.

Then just before noon, I harvested a big doe and that is winter meat for me. I was not hunting with the young people.

I arrived home from that trip with just a few days to get ready for the opening day of fall turkey season.

It seems the numbers of hunters hunting the birds in the fall has been declining, according to the Game Commission.

Their report stated: “On any landscape, the distribution of hunters and birds often will influence hunter success.

Run into too many hunters afield and you’ll feel crowded; find too few birds and maybe wish you were somewhere else.

So, avoid areas where there are other hunters, or even hikers. Find the food, look for turkey signs and find the flock. A wild turkey’s daylight hours are reserved for feeding. So, if you can’t find fresh turkey signs where you’re hunting, you’re in the wrong place.”

Turkeys make a mess of things in the search for food in leaf litter. If the exposed soil is dry where turkeys have scratched, the birds are gone. Consider revisiting the area later if mast remains available.

Field reports vary on mast production for this fall. The annual crop of white and chestnut oak acorns is spotty to below-average. The biennial crop of red oak acorns seems to be doing better in a lot of places, as are beechnuts. Wild grape production is off, but apples and crabapples had a great growing season.

Hunters finding fresh scratches while scouting should expect the birds to be near. Following the scratches while using cover to hide might be the best way to close in. Hunters closing on a feeding flock should expect birds are watching for trouble in almost every direction.

A hunter’s goal is to bust up the flock and call one back to harvest. It’s always a better strategy than taking a long shot, unless, of course, you’re hunting with a rifle.

In the fall season either sex of turkey may be taken. The big gobblers of the spring underwent a sort of metamorphosis in early summer. They separated from the hens and very young as soon as their hormones died down.

They now want little to do with the hens and they head for thicker terrain and they seldom will respond to the hen yelps and kee-kees of the young birds because they really do not wish to fraternize with either of them now.

But these flocks of hens and young are busy scratching in the woods and feeding, and they are noisily clucking and yelping to one another too. They scratch over a ridge looking to unearth acorns, beech nuts, worms and insects and whatever else catches their eye.

The most common way for hunters to stir up excitement and bag that hen or young bird, which by now are almost as big as their hen, is to run loudly at a flock of birds.

That scares the birds and they will run or fly in whatever direction they were facing.

Then in what seems like the silliest and strangest reaction of all, the young birds begins to do a screeching yelp that hunters call a kee-kee and usually make their way back to the very spot where they were scattered.

Well, turkeys really are not very smart. Like all wild creatures, they act on instinct and their panicked reaction to finding themselves separated from their hen is to try to find her again. So they set up the screeching and if the hunter can duplicate what they call “the kee-kee,” the young, unsophisticated bird will make their way back to that call they hear.

However, as each day of season passes, these young birds get more wary.

After they have been startled by hunters jumping out and running at them, they scatter and run but by now they have learned that when they come back to reassemble with their hen, shots ring out and their lives are at risk.

So they change tactics. They may wait for hours to reassemble, or even until roosting time or the next morning.

The slightest movement or unexpected noise will send them scurrying silently and the hunter may never see them again.

So each day of the season is a harder hunt than the day before. Often, just putting up your portable blind in a spot that has lots of food and/or sign there and waiting hours for them to return.

It may happen in an hour or it may take a day or two but unless someone chases them in the meantime, they will be back to feed.

Eventually.

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