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94-year-old hunter has another season in his sights

August 12, 1998

94 year old hunterBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer [enlarge]




ST. THOMAS, Pa. - Today or Friday, Oscar Finniff will get his doe license in the mail, enabling the 94-year-old man to join 7,600 other hunters in the fields and forests of Franklin County in December.

Oscar - "Dutch" to his friends - has enjoyed hunting since he was a boy, about the time the United States entered World War I in 1917.

"I started hunting small game when I was about 13," and began hunting deer a few years after that, he said.

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"Back when I started to hunt in 1919, if someone killed a deer, people came from miles and miles because they were so scarce," he said.

That was about the time his family moved from Fulton County, Pa., to the Mercersburg, Pa., area.

"When I was in my prime, there weren't half as many deer as there are now," he said.

The sport was also a lot less sophisticated, with most hunters roaming the Tuscarora Mountains with single-shot shotguns.

Finniff said he and his friends, mostly farmers, would head out each day during hunting season. There weren't many cars back then, so "you did a lot of walking."

"Half the hunters nowadays don't get more than a couple hundred yards from their cars. If they can't drive there, they don't go," he said.

Finniff said bagging a deer 70 or 80 years ago was a challenge in the hills along the county's western border. Back then, he said, the deer population was smaller and high-powered rifles and scopes weren't used.

"One year the whole gang of us hunted the whole season and got one buck," he said.

Finniff hasn't hunted in the mountains in about five years and walked with the help of a cane the last few times he did.

"We look for his license every year and it makes our day when Oscar's comes in the mail," said county Treasurer Steve Minnich.

When the three-day doe season begins Dec. 14, he and his son Thurman, 67, will drive to the property of a Little Cove, Pa., farmer and hunt in his fields. He still does some squirrel hunting in the woods behind a friend's house.

"I think I was right pretty fortunate to get one," he said of the doe he shot last season.

Rummaging through a wire basket in his basement, he showed off racks from bucks he bagged over the years, including an eight-point from 1932 and his last, a spike buck from 1979, when he was 75.

Finniff never attended a school with more than one room. Over the decades, he's been a farmer, a feed salesman, worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and was twice elected a St. Thomas Township, Pa., supervisor.

He and Bertha, his wife of 68 years, also have sold antiques from their home for half a century. She's in a nursing home now and the sign outside their red brick home is faded. Finniff has a few regular customers, including the county judge, who stopped by Wednesday.

Finniff still drives and fixes his own meals. He said his three children live nearby and family members drop in often.

"I don't know of any man who's been more blessed than I have. When you're 94 and can say you don't have an ache or pain, that all comes from above," he said.

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