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Many hunters happy on opening day in Pa.

November 30, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

FORT LOUDON, Pa. - Pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles began to pull up to the Keystone Country Store late Monday morning with early trophies from the first day of the rifle deer season in Pennsylvania.

"Actually, he just came out of the brush and stood right in front of me," Kirk Graham of Hagerstown said of the four-point, 116-pound buck he bagged that morning in the mountains near Fort Loudon.

"I think I scared him more than he scared me," Graham said.

Once it is butchered, Graham figured he would get about 60 pounds of meat from the animal. He had bagged another deer Saturday on the first day of Maryland's deer season.

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The rack on the deer he shot Monday is not going to win him any prizes in Keystone's annual Big Buck Contest, because it only had one antler. The sporting goods store has several categories of prizes for the archery and gun seasons, including largest body weight, according to Kevin Schoenberger, one of the partners in the business.

The prizes will be given out Saturday, Dec. 18, at what the business calls its "horn-measuring party," Schoenberger said.

The biggest of the seven field-dressed bucks brought in Monday morning was shot by Chad Keith of Cove Gap, Pa. He was out about an hour before he brought down the 174-pound, six-point buck around 8 a.m.

About a million licensed hunters are expected to take to the woods between now and the end of the season on Dec. 11, according to a news release from the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Spokesman Jerry Feaser said the commission estimates this year's harvest will be between 450,000 and 500,000 deer.

Hunters took 464,890 deer last year, including 142,270 bucks, according to game commission figures. The record was in 2002, when hunters killed 517,529 deer, according to the commission.

Robert Miller of Greencastle, Pa., rolled up with an eight-point in the trunk of his car.

"The fellow that was with me got an eight-point, too. There was plenty of activity out there," he said.

Fourteen-year-old Keith Bradley of Philadelphia was getting congratulations from his brother, father and grandfather for bringing down his first deer, a 100-pound doe.

"I'm so proud of you," Bob Bradley told his grandson. The grandfather had a pretty good morning, as well, bringing in a 132-pound buck.

"I love this because of these guys," Bob's son, Scott Bradley, said. "Dad loves it. It's a tradition."

Graham, a retired Maryland corrections officer who has been hunting 35 of his 47 years, said hunting is a time-honored tradition in his family, as well. It's something his father and grandfather passed down to him.

Monday he was out with a brother and a nephew.

"We all started young," he said. "My nephew had a bow in his hand when he was 6 or 7 years old."

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