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Hunters ready to hit the woods in Pa.

November 28, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

FORT LOUDON, Pa. - The aisles of the Keystone Country Store were crowded Sunday with hunters from across Pennsylvania and from nearby states making last-minute purchases before heading out to hunting cabins and campsites for the first day of Pennsylvania's two-week rifle deer season.

"We'll write just as many licenses today as we do in the summer," when hunters apply for their doe licenses, said Kevin Schoenberger, one of the owners of the business. Many of those coming to the store in recent days are from out of state, getting their hunting licenses for a shot at a trophy white-tailed buck.

"I've got to get in there and get a license. The last place I went to was out of them," said Eddie Smith of Hagerstown. With rain predicted for today, he also was looking for a tree stand umbrella and a waterproof blaze orange vest.

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"They're calling for rain tomorrow, so there's a lot of rain gear going out," Schoenberger said. Others were looking for those little items that get forgotten in the rush for the great outdoors - flashlights, batteries and gloves, he said.

A couple of hunters admitted to forgetting or losing the ammunition clips for their rifles.

The seasonal pilgrimage to this neck of the woods is a lifetime tradition for many hunters. Gene Snyder of Jessup, Md., has been hunting in Pennsylvania for the half-century since he was old enough legally to do so at age 12.

"I was born and raised over in Orbisonia (Pa.). I've got a place up there," Snyder said. In 50 years of hunting seasons, he said he has missed "only a couple when I was in the Navy."

Alfred Weller of Mercersburg, Pa., got his license at the last minute. He said he has been hunting "on and off for about ... 40-plus years," starting when his father took him out when he was about 12 or 13 years old.

"We've been hunting up here for 20-plus years" said Marty Sinkiewicz of Fairless Hills, Pa. His party of seven included Chris Pintozzi, who said he got a doe in each of the past two junior license seasons, which are in October.

David Coker of Waynesboro, Pa., and his son, David Jr., have been hunting together north of Fort Loudon, Pa., for about 10 years. They stopped at Keystone to get some knives sharpened before joining their hunting party.

The son said he bagged bucks in both of the last two seasons, the best an 8-pointer with a 15-inch spread on its rack. David Sr. said he got his last buck in 2002.

"This is my year. This is my time to do it," the father said.

Even if he does not get a buck in his sights this season, David Coker Sr. said the annual excursion is worth it just for the time spent with his son and friends.

Rifle deer season for does and antlered bucks runs through Dec. 10, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Last season, hunters took in 409,320 deer, according to the commission.

More than 16,600 doe licenses were issued in Franklin County this year, according to the Franklin County Treasurer's Office. The county has parts of three Wildlife Management Units within its boundaries.

If last year's commission numbers are any indication, half or more of the bucks will be taken today when the most hunters are out moving the deer population.

Schoenberger said he will not be among those sitting in blinds or tree stands today. He will be back at the store weighing and taking pictures of other people's trophies.

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