In the meantime, I've got a pile full of links that I've been wantin' to share with y'all, goin' all the way back to deer season. I'm gonna try to thin that list down over the next few days.
* * *
Here's one of my favorite stories to come out of the PA deer season...
Gap Woman Shoots Trophy Buck with Homemade Rifle
For many hunters, getting game isn't anywhere near as important as how they get it.
Or what they get it with.
The deer hunter who hits the woods toting a stick and string during gun season doesn't view his bow as a handicap.
The small gamer, who carries the double-barreled, blackpowder shotgun his grandfather gave him isn't thinking about bag limits as he works through the grape tangles.
Margaret Allison of Gap could have taken a scoped, semiautomatic shotgun with a rifled barrel when she went deer hunting Dec. 12 in Chester County.
Instead, the 71-year-old slinked through a skiff of snow with her hands firmly gripping the .50-caliber flintlock rifle with buckhorn sights her husband of 50 years, Paul, had built for her in 1986.
"I love that rifle," Margaret said. "It makes me a better hunter, because I have to think about what I'm doing so much more when I go to shoot."
On this chilly next-to-last day of the 2014 firearms season, Margaret was a good enough hunter with her trusty flintlock to take her biggest buck ever — an 11-pointer — with a single shot at 85 yards.
"I'm usually pretty calm when it comes time to shoot, but I have to admit, I was shaking on this shot," she said. "I knew it was a nice buck."
Old school rifle
It's actually not all that surprising that Margaret Allison would choose to carry a flintlock into the deer woods, when she could legally carry a more modern firearm.
Her husband, Paul, is the owner of Federal Gun Shoppe in Gap, and has been building custom flintlocks for decades.
Also, the husband and wife are long-time members of Lancaster Muzzle Loading Rifle Association, where Margaret serves as secretary.
The Allisons shoot regularly, which Margaret says is key to being proficient with a flintlock.
"The more you shoot these rifles, the more familiar you become with how they function," she said. "They're all different."
Paul recalls a time when a man asked his wife "why she would want to take out one of those unreliable guns that don't always go off.
"She looked him right in the eye and said, 'Sir, my rifle has never misfired.' "
And it has never misfired on a deer. Not since the day she started shooting it.
Retired from the insurance business, Margaret didn't seriously take up deer hunting until Paul built her .50-caliber flintlock in the 1980s.
Since then, she has taken 16 deer with that rifle.
Six of those — including this year's monster — have been bucks.
She's got notches in the rifle's stock for each deer — big notches for bucks, smaller ones for does.
On Dec. 12, the Allisons headed to a piece of private property where they have permission to hunt.
Their plan was to sit in the truck until daylight, then slip through the woods to their favorite hunting spots, looking for deer along the way.
"In this woods, you might see deer anywhere," she said.
Within seconds after she left the truck, Margaret bumped some deer.
"I am impatient," she said. "I like to get to my stand and then wait for deer to come to me."
Bumping those deer reminded Margaret of advice her husband had given her about walking slowly, with light feet, and scanning the woods for deer.
So that's what she did the rest of the way.
She figures it took her an hour and 45 minutes to get to her stand.
"And I really didn't go that far away from the truck," she said.
As she approached her spot, she saw several deer ahead of her.
It was the five she had spooked earlier.
"Apparently, I didn't scare them too bad, because they were just feeding along," she said. "They never left the woods."
One of the deer was noticeably larger than the others.
That's the one Margaret focused on.
And within short order, she noticed it had antlers.
"I didn't know how big it was, but I knew it was big," she said. "That's when I started shaking."
Margaret was shaking so much, she thought she might have trouble shooting.
"I remembered what Paul told me about finding a tree to use to steady myself, and I really took my time to think about what I needed to do to shoot," she said.
Even with that laser focus, Margaret admits she still was shaking.
But when she squeezed the trigger and became engulfed in a cloud of white smoke, she felt good about the shot.
She didn't see where the buck went, but she could tell by listening that he ran away from her, before circling back and crashing barely 40 yards away.
"It was a big crash," she said. "I knew he was down."
Ground shrinkage? Not
When Margaret walked up on her buck, she couldn't believe her eyes.
The long, sweeping main beams had good mass to support the 11 points, and about an 18-inch spread.
"He was even bigger than I thought," she said. "He had a big rack and he was a big-bodied deer."
The property manager heard Margaret's shot, as did her husband, and the two rushed over to find her. Both shared in Margaret's delight.
The property manager fetched his tractor and hauled the buck back to the Allison's truck in the bucket.
"That made things a lot easier on us, I can tell you," Margaret said.
This was the biggest buck Margaret ever shot, but he's not going to the taxidermist.
"His antlers were broken in a couple places," she said. "I'm happy just to remember him with the rack."
And with another notch in her rifle stock.