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Hopes high for Pa. deer season

November 29, 1999

Deer seasonBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photos: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




FORT LOUDON, Pa. - Judging by the Polaroids tacked up above the counter at the Keystone Country Store, Monday was a good day to be a hunter and a bad day to be a buck.

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Kevin Schoenberger, one of the store's owners, was taking pictures, weighing bucks and counting the points on their racks as hunters drove up with trophies in the backs of pickups and SUVs.

"It's a good time of the year," he said after three hunters brought bucks to the sporting goods store within a few minutes of each other. By 1 p.m., 17 bucks had been brought in.

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"It happened too soon," said Curvin Gochenour of Chambersburg, Pa. "I was going to hunt every day for the whole two weeks," he said. But an eight-point buck walked into his sights at about 8:30 a.m. near Fannettsburg, Pa.

Outside the store he traded stories with three other hunters.

"I had to drag it 400 yards ... straight up," Gochenour said. "At first I had to hook him on trees, or he'd slide back down."

After gutting, Gochenour's buck weighed in at 132 pounds.

Terry L. Gordon of Chambersburg said he had carried his out "Indian-style," with the buck suspended by its legs from a pole. It weighed 148 pounds, the biggest of the day at that point.

"It helps to have a friend," said Scott Reim, who helped Gordon lug the beast out of the forest a few miles north of Fort Loudon.

Kevin ShoenbergerReim, of Fort Loudon, had come up empty-handed Monday morning. "I saw a few does, but no horns behind them," he said.

Reim also saw a few snowflakes. With a cold wind blowing, it felt like November, rather than the unseasonably warm temperatures that greeted hunters in West Virginia the week before.

A few minutes later the Ambroses of Greencastle, Pa., pulled up with a 96-pound, seven-pointer 12-year-old Adam shot on their property a few hours earlier.

"Hopefully, we'll be back with another one. She hasn't gotten hers yet," Steve Ambrose said, pointing to his daughter, Destiny.

"I shot at one last year. ... This year's my lucky year," 14-year-old Destiny said. Like her brother, she began hunting as soon as she hit 12.

Not every child in Franklin County picks up a rifle when they hit their 12th birthday, the minimum age for hunting, but enough do that schools close the first day of the season. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, 1,936 junior licenses were issued in Franklin County in 1998 and 356 in Fulton County.

Bruce Whitman, chief of the Game Commission's Public Information Division, said more than 21,000 general hunting licenses were purchased in Franklin County last year, 1,518 by nonresidents. Fulton County agents sold about 3,800 licenses, more than 400 to nonresidents.

Don Garner, the information and education supervisor for the commission's South Central Region, said there were probably three times that many hunters roaming the mountains and hills of the two counties, because the licenses are good anywhere in the state.

With 1.1 million licenses issued last year, Pennsylvania was No. 1 in the country, ahead of Michigan, Whitman said. He estimates higher license fees this year will reduce that figure about 6 percent.

"In this area, being predominantly rural, traditions go way back. Enthusiasm for hunting remains high," Schoenberger said.

Many of those licenses, about 4,200, were purchased at Keystone, according to Schoenberger. The store is in prime hunting country, just north of the intersection of U.S. 30 and Pa. 75, and it offers a series of prizes for the best rack, biggest buck and other categories.

The top prize is a free mounting by Mac's Taxidermy next door, Schoenberger said.

The Game Commission estimates 1,911 bucks were taken in Franklin County last year, another 1,881 in Fulton County.

Garner said the first day of buck season had been uneventful in the 11-county region, with no major accidents or violations reported, although there had been reports of hunters having fatal heart attacks in Cumberland and Huntingdon counties. There was one fatal hunting accident under investigation in Potter County in North Central Pennsylvania, according to state authorities.

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