by John Straitiff
This story originally ran in October of 2015. With the whitetail rut just around the corner and hunting being a popular fall activity in the PA Great Outdoors region, it seems like the perfect time to revisit the long honored rural Pennsylvania tradition of spotting deer.
Growing up in the small town of Sigel, one of my favorite fall activities was piling into the family car for an evening of spotting deer. We would grab blankets, some cider or hot chocolate, and few snacks to enjoy as we bounced down the back roads of Northern Jefferson County filled with anticipation as we went looking for whitetail deer. My brother and I would keep count of how many deer we would see and get very excited if we saw a “nice” buck. The biggest thrill for me was and still remains seeing two bucks fighting during the rut. When I went to college at Clarion University, spotting deer was one of the favorite pastimes for me and my friends. Most of the students who grew up in urban areas had never heard of going spotting. Once we convinced them to ride along and give it a try we had them hooked. To this day, I enjoy taking the roads less traveled with a spotlight in hand and my wife by my side. It gives me a break from the stresses of modern life and I still get excited when I see a large set of antlers appear in the beam of the spotlight. Over the years, I have seen thousands of deer and many other creatures of the night including bear, raccoon, fox, coyote, opossum, rabbit, skunk, mink, and many owls.
If you are not familiar with the term spotting for deer, it is rather simple. All you need is car, a spotlight, binoculars, and a sense of adventure. Then just hit the back roads to see what creatures you can find. Discovering new areas in the country can be half the fun. Open fields and apple orchards are always good places to look, but don’t forget to check small clearings and powerlines too. Back in the day, spotlights were pretty basic as nothing more than a light in something that looked very similar to soup pan with a cord that plugged into the car’s cigarette lighter with an on/off switch. Now you can buy 1 million candlepower rechargeable lights. There are few basic laws that you will need to keep in mind. It is unlawful to cast an artificial light upon any building, farm animal or photoelectric cell. Recreational spotlighting is lawful between sunset and 11 p.m. except during the regularly scheduled statewide antlered and antlerless rifle deer season. So load the family in car and hit the back roads for some good old fashion country-style fun.