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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Last Saturday my son and I went for his first deer hunt, and our collective first hunt in Potter County. Potter is in the northern tier of counties bordering New York. We hunted the southern part of Potter, in the big woods of the Susquehannock State Forest. It is the "deep valley" area of the state, part of the larger Allegheny Plateau region. Ridge top elevations are 2,200 - 2,400 feet, with valley floors around 1,500 feet. It can be fairly steep terrain in places. This spot was new to us, and we had not done any scouting. The hunt itself would be a day to spend with each other, and a scouting trip. If we tagged a buck, it would be icing on the cake.

This area of the state is known for trout fishing, black bear, deer and some turkey hunting. Hardwood logging and shale gas production are common. Oak, red maple and black cherry are the main timber species of commercial interest. A few years ago, gas fracking activity was very common with new wells being put in, and the pipelines to support them. This is mostly finished now. The wells pads and pipelines remain and help hunters access the deep woods, as well as providing habitat edges and the opportunity for fresh vegetation to regrow.

Deer hunting regulations in this area include a three points on one side antler restriction. The western part of Pennsylvania has a "three up" antler restriction, where the brow tine cannot be counted as a point. To me this is effectively a four points on one side rule. Doe permits where we hunted were sold out before the season started. My son would be carrying my Tikka T3 in .30-06 and I would carry my grandfather's Winchester Model 1894 in .32 Winchester Special with open sights. I'm sure this rifle hadn't been into the deer woods in many decades.

We got on the road at 4:30 a.m. and arrived three and a half hours later at the hunting ground. Temperature was in the forties, and we knew it would reach near sixty, so we dressed lighter than one would expect for the middle of December. The first leg of the hike was a 150 foot elevation gain up a steep side hill, where we entered the woods and started our stalk. Almost immediately we started seeing fresh droppings and active trails. As we continued, we saw a number of scrapes and rubs made this season. I stopped counting after we found ten each fresh scrapes and rubs. It was a pleasant surprise.

After an hour and a half of hiking, I heard a deer blow at us two or three times. The deer was above us and just on the other side of a knoll, and we could not see it. We split up and circled around each side of the hill to try to catch the deer as it retreated. After forty five minutes we linked up again, neither of us having seen anything.

We stayed on the ridge stop, which varied from 2,300 feet to 2,450 feet in elevation. Habitat was patchy red oak and black cherry, with a continuous presence of red maple and beech. Understory was striped maple and beech thicket. Surprising to me was the lack of mountain laurel, a common shrub in the PA mountains. Oak thickets and saplings were almost absent. The acorn crop this year was small, according to reports I had read earlier, and we found this to be true. We did find uneaten beech nuts.

Approaching noon, we pushed through thick growth from a fifteen year old clearcut, and found a very distinct deer trail on what was the logging or skidding road for the clearcut. The road was unusable for vehicles, with the regrowth and logs strewn about. But for the deer, it was a highway, with a large quantity of fresh droppings and fresh scrapes along the trail. We got to the top of this hill, pushed through the other side, and sat down for lunch looking over the edge of the ridge into the next valley. At that point we were around a mile and a half from the vehicle, as the crow flies. By the time we stopped for lunch, we had worked up a sweat in the near-sixty degree weather.

We finished our lunch, took some pictures, and started the hike back. In the last hour and a half of shooting light, we set up near a buried gas pipeline easement, where we could see 150 yards or so in both directions along the pipeline. My son sat with the .30-06 and I sat 20 yards away glassing the far slope and ridge, hoping to see a deer at the end of the day.

Having not seen anything, we scrambled down the steep slope, in near darkness, found the road and walked to the vehicle. We took off our boots and finished the coffee in the thermos, and agreed it was a great day. We put around four miles on our boots in nine hours in the woods. We drove roughly forty minutes to Wellsboro, PA and had a nice dinner at the somewhat historic Penn Wells Hotel, then made the three hour drive home.

In May I plan to turkey hunt this area, and scout the valley bottom. If anyone is thinking about hunting public ground in Pennsylvania, I am happy to help with information so that you can pick a place to try and call "your own".
 

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Great hunt there Kroppe!

Perhaps the blowing deer had bedded over the ridge top a few feet with the wind at it's back .
A southern exposure for solar heat?
Wonder how much time I've pondered on such matters.
Dropped a squirrel once that landed on or dang near a bedded deer I did not know was there so close....
 
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Waif, quite possibly. The first blow was fairly loud. There were no hunters in a 1/2 mile - 1 mile radius so it would have been pretty peaceful until we came traipsing up, and and the deer could have been bedded.
 
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