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Pennsylvania deer hunters excited about start of season

November 28, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

FORT LOUDON, Pa. - It's easy to tell when deer hunting season is approaching in Franklin County.

Pickup trucks cruise the roads slowly at night, their occupants shining spotlights into farm fields. The air is filled with the sound of hunters firing their rifles at targets to be sure their scopes are properly aligned. Keystone Country Store in Fort Loudon swarms with hunters purchasing licenses, clothing, accessories and guns.

Pennsylvania rifle season opens Monday and ends Dec. 11. Both bucks and does are legal targets.

Saturday, the parking lot at Keystone overflowed as hunters in camouflage clothing or plaid shirts browsed through hunting, fishing and archery supplies and clothing.

"This is a big accessory year," said Kevin Shoenberger, co-owner of the store. "We've been very busy."

Hunters can have their knives sharpened while they inspect the tree stands, boots, earth-scented clotheswash and various seasonings for wild meat.

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The store runs a Big Buck contest every year, awarding store certificates for the largest racks.

"The 18th of December, we'll have a Horn Measuring Party," Shoenberger said. "There will be 100 people here, we'll have a cookout and they'll bring their antlers in. We score them like the record books do, and the largest wins a prize."

Steve Bilovecky of Hustontown, Pa., said he is "always ready" for hunting season. He was in the store Saturday purchasing new gloves and a "hot seat."

"It gets cold sitting on a 5-gallon bucket," he said.

Bilovecky, who said he has been hunting for 41 years and taken 41 deer, including at least 25 bucks, will hunt Monday on Sideling Hill with coworkers.

Keystone Country Store will be open from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday.

Janelle Weaver, 12, of Hustontown purchased her first hunting license at the store Saturday. She went in the woods last year "as an observer," said her mother, Rhonda Weaver.

Janelle isn't picky about the size or gender of the deer she'd like to bag, she'll take "anything," she said.

If the hunt is successful, "we'll make jerky and bologna," Rhonda Weaver said.

A licensed adult hunter will accompany Janelle in the woods.

Blue Mountain Sporting Goods in Chambersburg, Pa., is in the midst of its busiest time of year, according to co-owner Chris Fow.

"Scopes have been a big seller. There are a lot of new rifle scopes out," Fow said. "We've sold a lot of hunting rifles, too. It's one of our best years for rifles."

The number of hunting licenses sold at the store has increased, Fow said.

"We sold more licenses in the first week that they were available this year than we did in all of last year," Fow said.

Pennsylvania hunting licenses cost $20.

Blue Mountain carries archery, fishing and hunting supplies, outdoor clothing, tree stands, police items and team sports supplies, Fow said.

Last year, roughly 1 million licensed deer hunters harvested 465,000 deer in Pennsylvania, down from the record 517,000 that was recorded in the 2002-03 hunting season.

Twenty-eight people were shot in hunting-related incidents last season, up from 15 the year before. Ten cases were self-inflicted, and three people died.

A 1998 study by the state Legislature's Center for Rural Pennsylvania found hunting had a $3.4 billion annual economic value in Pennsylvania.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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