Pennsylvania’s Number One Hunting Holiday Begins Today!

Dan Syzmanski (right) and his 13-year-old son Hunter assist 10-year-old Gavin up the ladder of their tree stand as they prepared for today’s first day of buck season in North Buffalo Township. (photo by Lori Harris)

by Lori Harris

It may never make the federal holiday register in Washington, D.C., but local schools and many businesses have closed for a day or two in observance of Pennsylvania’s number one hunting holiday – Buck Season!

Of course, I don’t mean we’re all getting our guns and heading out to the woods to actually “shoot” something—of course not!  The first Monday after Thanksgiving traditionally has been known for the opening day of Buck Season.  For many hunters, this is their Thanksgiving!

Restaurants opened as early as 4AM today to accommodate the appetite of hunters wanting to be out in the woods at the crack of dawn. Other family members will converge in the appointed cook’s kitchen for breakfast treats including man-cakes, sausage, eggs, and lots of coffee!

Planning for today started during the Thanksgiving meal for many families.

In my family, after the noon meal has been devoured, the guys headed to one room and the women to the kitchen.  Let me say, this is not a sexist approach to life!  My mother and my aunt, along with my sister and female cousins enjoyed sitting around the table socializing!  Because of work schedules, most of us do not get to see each other as we did when we were younger.  Of course,  we had to gear up for the Monday sales.  Now, we gear up for Black Friday shopping!  The women spend the afternoon looking through sale flyers and choosing the most strategic shopping plan!   Life certainly is good!

The guys of course, had other plans!  My dad and uncle would take my brother and cousin and go up to our property, which we used to call “the farm” and site their guns in and get their gear ready for the first day of Buck season!  While in itself this may sound rather simple, however for an avid hunter, this is considered “Preparation” of the highest calling!  

Now, over the years, I’ve been on both sides of this rather male/female fence.  I’ve done the hunting and the shopping and I have loved them both. There is no better smell in a store than fresh merchandise! And no better visualization than 80% off signs we all can relate to!  On the other hand, being outside in the crisp fall air and taking in the essence of God’s handiwork all around us and seeing a buck with a set of antlers running through the woods will beat the sales any day!   Sales come and go, but the first day of “Buck Season” comes one time a year.  Seeing a big buck and actually harvesting one is a whole different venue!  Adrenaline pumping nonstop!

There is something to be said for a group of men and boys discussing hunting strategies!  And remember it’s not just about hunting—this truly is about camaraderie at its finest!   The older guys helping the younger boys, listening to past stories, and generating excitement!  Discussing what equipment they will use.  What bucks they have seen and where!  When you’re a part of a group like this, you feel the heat!  You smell the air, it’s crisp and clean, smelling leaves and decaying matter, but—-just being a part of a group like this is exhilarating!  That’s what hunting is about!  Mentoring, site your guns in, hanging out, practicing, discussing what kind of equipment you’ll use, what clothes you’ve purchased, where your “Deer Stand” will be!  These are paramount decisions for the serious hunters!  Most importantly—what bucks you’ve seen and where!!!  Most of us know have come to know, the bigger, the better!

Currently, I’m no longer hunting deer, so my quest was to find a group of serious hunters to interview for this article.   And I found them!

Located deep North Buffalo Township this weekend, I found Dan Syzmanski strutting through the woods with his two sons on their way to the family tree stand. Dan is a proud dad of the next generation of hunters in his family.

“Now it’s about the kids. It’s nice to see the kids go out and get shooting. If not, just to get out and have a good time and enjoy the day of hunting with your kids.”

Hunter, 13, has already spent lots of time in the woods with his dad. He has already brought home trophies of pheasants, groundhogs, and other small game. But this year, he is looking for the big one. Dan said Hunter’s experience has been a result of the mentor program.

“Mentor program is you are allowed to take a kid out before he is twelve, and before he could take his hunter safety course. It’s a big responsibility. The major thing of it is safety. You gotta watch ‘em, that’s all – and try to keep the ticks off of them,” Dan said.

Hunter was busy last night getting ready for this morning.

“We get our clothes ready. That way you can get up and there’s not a bunch of running around looking for this. We take lunches.”

Dan can hold his own when it comes to telling hunting stories. He also had quite a few trophies around the house of his successful hunting experiences. 

“I was hunting in Ohio across the valley I seen a buck chasing does. I got off the four-wheeler, and I went down and grunted at him. He came straight down to me and I shot him.”

Ten-year-old Gavin hasn’t had a lot of experience yet, but he could tell you what it was going to be like this morning.

“I got my clothes ready, I got dressed, I got my gun, I went on my four-wheeler, my Dad drove me, I got to go up in the tree stand, wait for a little bit, then when I saw the deer, I aimed, and shot.”

Dan had a final message for all deer hunters today:

“All you hunters out there, good luck. Be safe.”

Dan Syzmanski of North Buffalo Township (left) teaches his ten-year-old son Gavin shooting techniques from a tree stand while his son Hunter, 13, observes.