Before getting to the meat of the column, let’s look at a bit of news from our “friends” at the Game Commission.
After a recent meeting, it looks as though the opening day of deer season will be moved to the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I guess it will make little difference to people in my situation, as I hunt close to home. For those who travel to camps, though, an old and much loved tradition will be lost. There is something special about that Sunday before the season opener. It is a chance to relax, shoot the bull and just plain reminisce. I have experienced that a time or two.
It would also appear that there is no relief in sight for senior hunters and antler restrictions. As far as I’m concerned, this is a gross unfairness. Someone who paid for a license all of their adult life, is bound by the onerous restrictions, while someone who has never bought a license is not. Of course, I am opposed to the mentored youth program. A kid should wait until he or she is 12, take the hunter safety course, then hunt. If it is so urgent to preserve small bucks, why let anyone shoot them?
Now, for the main focus of this month’s column. With a lot of time on my hands, I got to thinking about some of the guys I used to hunt and fish with who are no longer with us. The first one to come to mind is Dr. Joseph “Doc” Scisly. In all of my years of hunting and fishing, I don’t believe that I ever met a more enthusiastic outdoorsman than Doc. No matter what the activity was, he was fired up and ready to go.
Along with some other guys, we fished and hunted in Canada, Potter County and more places than you could shake a stick at. Outdoor writer Greg Knowles, in “In Fisherman” magazine, writes a monthly column called North With Doc. It features adventures with a dentist, as Joe was, in the great outdoors. It’s the first thing I read in the magazine each month, as the Doc in the stories bears an uncanny similarity to Joe. If I were to set down all of my Doc stories, it would take volumes. He’s been gone for 20 years now, but I still miss him.
Another one was Earl Lytle. Earl was about as close to a modern mountain man as anyone I ever met. While he had very little formal education, he could do all kinds of things, including carpentry, wiring, etc. Hunting and fishing, however, were his big things. He was especially passionate about coonhunting. We spent many a night with our hounds, chasing the masked bandit.
We fished a lot as well. On one occasion, Earl latched onto a huge catfish on the Allegheny, just upstream from the old East Brady bridge. Just as he brought it to the boat, his rod (which was a heavy duty model) snapped and the line broke. While we got a look at the fish, we could not, of course, determine its size. The biggest catfish I ever saw was a four-footer on display at a taxidermy shop. Earl’s fish was right in there.
He eventually took a job with his brother in Florida, where he passed away. When I got word of his passing, it had been a long time since I had seen him, but I was still very saddened at the news. When I took him to the airport for his flight to Florida, it didn’t occur to me that I would never see him again. Sometimes, things just work out that way.
In closing, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the fact that Punxsy Phil failed to see his shadow on Saturday. That is supposed to mean an early spring. I certainly hope that he’s right. I have had more than enough of winter, and, for the most part, it hasn’t been all that bad.