Indiana, PA - Indiana County

ZEKE WILSON: Sighting stirs emotions

by on April 29, 2014 10:30 AM

On Monday I had the luck to witness three osprey fishing on Musser Lake. With binoculars it was impossible to follow the one raptor’s head-first dive from perhaps 50 yards above, but I could clearly see the footlong fish clutched in its talons as it flew away.

In the early 1980s, the Pennsylvania Game Commission came up with a series of annual patches to support wildlife conservation. The first patch in the series featured an osprey, and for myself that brought the birds’ existence to my attention. The scarcity of the initial patch became evident to collectors, and in the years to come the osprey patch commanded almost $1,000 before the greed of counterfeiters ruined the market.

As a hunter, trapper and angler, I recognized something different in the air as I waited to be loaded with mulch, and I took the time to identify what I saw. In the past I had familiarized myself with their unique wing pattern and was able to identify the species without the aid of glass.

Unfortunately, the general public does not notice wildlife like those who spend their free time in the outdoors. Sitting in front of the television is as easy as it can get, and consequently more time is spent indoors than out in the environment. The hustle-and-bustle of society has cars constantly bisecting the environment at breakneck speeds with drivers who could not even name three small game species. Consequently, wildlife suffers significantly from those who fail to take the time or effort to notice our surroundings.

When time permits perhaps I will create a sign stating “Speed kills. Slow down.” But I have my doubts that people would start braking for the resident rabbits. Many would rather speed on and let their cat roam free to assist them in impacting wildlife adversely. If I owned an elk hound and let it run free to proudly drag home its dead deer to the front porch each day, I feel confident it would be legally shot by someone within a week for harassing and harming wildlife.

While it is easy to forget, our time here is short, yet our mark on the environment can be permanent. Invasive species, fragmentation and habitat loss all continue on a daily basis, but it seems only a minority of people take notice. Although there is no shortage of deer or rabbits at the moment, things can change quickly, and spending time in the woods is the only way to know what is going on around us.

• Those who I spoke with indicated the youth spring gobbler hunt was a success. While the youth hunt is nothing but positive, each year I hear at least one story about the young hunter’s lower position prohibiting an in-range tom from being bagged. Parents and mentors should take time to slouch down before setting up so they can see what the shooter will see. Oftentimes the slightest roll in topography can be the difference between hearing and seeing.

On Saturday junior license hunters as well as adults will enter the woods for a nearly monthlong spring gobbler season. With the rainy weather, taking a drive to locate birds is not a bad idea, but once the woods fill with hunters, turkeys can quickly be pushed into new areas.

Those who carry a 10-gauge for turkey should inventory their ammo today because many vendors have stopped stocking it. Fear and concern continue to fuel the ammunition shortage, which impacts those who shoot the less-popular offerings. When companies have anything they produce sold instantly to hoarders and speculators, there is no incentive to switch over from standard to less-popular rounds.

Zeke Wilson is an outdoors writer for The Indiana Gazette. His columns appear Tuesday on the Outdoors page and in the Indiana County Area Sports section on The Indiana Gazette Online.
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