"The bigger one's coming up around" whispered Jeremy as I shifted the scope off the second doe. The big doe stopped broadside 60 yards away as she came up out of the shallow basin. As the cross hairs settled into the crease behind the left shoulder, I wondered if this was to be the start in a season of harvest?
It was a crisp October dawn for the opening morning of Pennsylvania's early muzzle loader season and six hunters gathered together to hunt in the DMAP area of Bald Eagle mountain just south of Williamsport. In the pre-dawn darkness, final plans were made and then the hunters bowed their heads for a moment of prayer. Each of the hunters standing there may have had unspoken requests or burdens and I know God heard their heart's longing in that moment of fellowship.
After the Amens were said and handshakes offered, the group separated. Hunters Paul and Eric Rice along with Judd Gabel would head west along the access trail across the bottom of the mountain, then hike up a short distance to spread out on some oak laden benches. Jeremy was archery hunting for a buck and since it was his first excursion into the DMAP I joined him for the morning. We drove his truck up to the top of the mountain then hiked out across the top of the ridge about one mile above the other hunters. Our sixth man, Fred, wanted to spend the day pursuing squirrel and scouting so he still-hunted below the access trail in hopes of moving deer to the rest of the Nimrods (Gen. 10:9).
Jeremy set up on the west side of a small saddle in the ridge and I moved east another 300 yards to watch for deer coming up into the laurel to bed down. As I approached the edge of a small shelf a familiar white flag was raised, followed by three more in quick succession, to let me know I had been busted. After the deer disappeared over the edge, I sat down to enjoy the sunrise. What an awesome morning to just sit still experiencing the fall foliage bursting into radiant colors of reds and yellows highlighted by the green mountain laurel.
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One hour later I still-hunted back toward Jeremy and we began to ease slowly down the mountain shelves scouting for buck rubs and other signs of deer activity. On the third shelf we spotted a deer trotting away to our left. So, we moved slowly in that direction before spotting two others feeding on acorns nearby. As described earlier, the bigger doe presented a good shot opportunity and I watched her "death run" through a cloud of blue smoke. This was my first muzzle loader harvest and Jeremy seemed as excited as I was when we reached the doe. After a lot of convincing that I could easily drag the deer downhill to the access trail, Jeremy reluctantly headed west to hunt back to the truck. I spent a few moments thanking God for the Blessing of the harvest and for the many meals my family would enjoy as a result. The doe had only gone about 40 yards after being hit but I wanted to study the blood trail. The heavy red speckles on the leaf-covered mountainside was easy to back-trail and showed on both sides of the hoof-plowed leaves, confirming a complete pass through of the 300 grain sabot. I shivered inwardly as Isaiah 53:5 entered my thoughts... "But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed." What a comfort knowing that this verse is a promise of forgiveness and hope.
The temperature was starting to rise noticeably as I marked a way-point on my G.P.S., after finishing with field dressing the deer. I began the 1.6 mile downhill trek and my initial 100 yard drags in between breaks soon shortened to 75-50-25. Thankfully, the cheerful (or should I say angelic) voice of nearby hunting buddies crackled over the radio as I reached the bottom. Judd soon arrived to snap a couple pictures and share a cool drink before leaning his big frame into the drag-rope. A 1/4 mile drag later, Fred showed up to help after Jeremy had driven down the mountain to send extra help.
The day continued with lunch at the local pizza joint before we separated ways. It was turning out to be a season of harvest for our gang as we gathered many more times over the course of the different deer seasons for times of fellowship & Prayer as Brothers in Christ.
May every hunter come to realize Psalm 76:4
"You are resplendent with light, more majestic than mountains rich with game."
About the Author: Phil has been successfully hunting PA White-tails almost four decades with longbow, recurve, compound, pistol, rifle, and muzzleloader. He is also an avid turkey hunter of 15 years. A certified PA Hunter/Trapper Education Instructor for 7 years (now retired), Phil also founded C.A.S.T.E.R.S. (Children Accepting Salvation Through Efforts of Religious Sportsmen) Hunting Club in 2000. Devoted husband and father, Phil has been employed in the Automotive Technologies field for 30 yrs. Phil can be reached via the Hunting Resource Forums.