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Hewitt: Archery kicks off autumn season

The fellows were having a discussion about the first day of autumn the other day and especially when the first day of fall is recognized and summer fades away.

One thought was expressed that Labor Day weekend marked the end of summer and the start of autumn. Another opinion was the Autumnal Equinox in September was the official start when the days were equal in length and starting to lean toward more darkness each day, or the changing of leaf colors, and finally, maybe the start of archery season for whitetails.

They all had merit and each played a role in our daily thinking, but for many outdoorsmen, the opening day of archery really kicked off the autumn season.

Unexpected visitor

As I was doing a per functionary duty of cleaning off garden plants (another sign of fall), I heard a bit of a racket nearby. Stopping my effort, I looked up to zero in on the source of the noise. It seemed close by and actually was near an apple tree a few yards away, by the start of a brushy edge.

I spied a very respectable buck deer raking his antlers on the overhanging branches of the apple tree. Each rake would cause handfuls of apples to fall and the deer would gobble them up. Another sign of fall is the heavy feeding habits of wildlife getting fattened for the winter months ahead.

He was a decent buck, at least an 8-point, something to put away in the back of my mind for a later hunting day. The movement of deer is definitely increasing in open areas and unfortunately, often across roadways which doesn’t always end so well for deer or motorists. Keep alert for the crossing areas and especially near feeding zones around agriculture areas. We are not yet in the rutting time of whitetail deer, fortunately, because when that happens, all the normal routines are disrupted by deer going every which way.

Archery season opens

Last weekend opened the statewide archery season, which runs from Oct. 1 through Nov. 18. That is seven weeks of archery season with the rut really on the go for the last three weeks of the hunt.

Archers must have both the regular hunting license and the archery license to hunt. The use of long bows, recurve bows and compound bows are permitted. The pull weight of all bows must be at a minimum of 35 pounds draw weight.

Each arrow or bolt must have a hunting broadhead that has a cutting edge that is 7/8-inch wide and 3¼ inches long. It can be made of metal or stone material (flint), which is mostly used by traditional long-bow hunters.

The wearing of camo or natural leather-type skins is allowed for archers without the mandatory requirement for fluorescent orange in most cases. However, when archery season overlaps with any modern firearm season, the flo-orange vests and caps must be worn at a 250-inch minimum. Either a buck or doe can be harvested in archery season, but if you use your buck tag to take a doe, you will be done for any further buck hunting.

The rule in Pennsylvania is one buck per customer, even if you use the tag for whatever deer you harvest. Most hunters use their doe tags exclusively, unless they are hunting late in the season or are out of the extra doe tags.

Many hunters will be hunting out of elevated stands placed in trees in likely deer travel areas. This is a critical time to use the utmost caution because hunters can be seriously injured from a fall from a tree or stand that is elevated. Broken bones are common injuries resulting in serious back, neck and leg injuries. Safety belts that keep you in a safety net from hitting the hard ground are highly encouraged. The use of rope draws for bows and firearms are also recommended; you need to use both hands to climb safely.

The use of ground blinds is also a popular hunting option and can be set up to hide your outline from deer and other game animals. Mark your ground blind with orange flagging and don’t use logs or stones to make a blind … that’s illegal in Pennsylvania.

Sitting with your back against a tree is OK and safe for traditional hunters. Make sure that you let other hunters know of your hunting location if you have any doubt about safety distances.

Remember to use some repellents for ticks and mosquitoes. They will be active in the archery season and can cause you some serious health consequences.

Until we meet again, find a great place to hang out in the woods and make your shot count!

Jay Hewitt is an outdoors columnist for the Cranberry Eagle

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