LEWISTOWN - Frigid weather has never hindered hunters from rising before the sun to climb into the dark and dense woods of the Juniata Valley.
Distance, it seems hasn't been an obstacle either.
Hunters from far and wide descended upon both our area and the Keystone State Monday on the first day of rifle deer season in search of "the great buck," or at least to attain a fable of the one that got away.
New Hampshire resident John Wileman, originally from Lewistown, returned to the area to assist his 12-year-old nephew in his third successful year of hunting.
"I've hunted in Pennsylvania all my life. I don't want to hunt anywhere else," he said.
Wileman is not alone. With the added convenience of the rifle deer season beginning during the Thanksgiving weekend, it makes it easier for visitors to stay an extra day or two to experience Pennsylvania's bucolic landscapes.
Compared with other states, Pennsylvania is famous for its plethora of deer that graze throughout the cornfields and mountain sides.
"In New Hampshire, you can sit in the woods for three weeks and never see a squirrel. That's why I'll always hunt back home," Wileman said to explain his pilgrimage back to the Juniata Valley.
Between those who come from out of state and the numerous Pennsylvania residents, about 750,000 hunters are expected to take part in the two-week-long season, which ends Dec. 8.
Hunters in the Juniata Valley can bring their legally-killed antlered deer to The Sentinel office at 352 Sixth St. in the Pleasant Acres section of Lewistown to enter the Big Buck Contest. The entire deer is preferred, but the head and the hide are acceptable as long as the tag remains attached.
Anyone wishing to enter the contest can stop by The Sentinel anytime between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday, 6 to 7 p.m. Sunday. After 4:30 p.m. on Monday-Friday, hunters must call to ensure a photographer is present before coming to The Sentinel. No other times are available on Saturday or Sunday.
No submitted photos of deer kills will be accepted for the competition, but are welcome for publication on our weekly Outdoors page.
A total of 20 deer were entered on Monday. The deadline for entry into the contest is 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 10. The competition features both adult and junior/mentored youth divisions.
While the season got off to a good start in our area, there were some special restrictions on some Pennsylvania hunters as they hit the woods Monday because of a deadly disease found in captive deer earlier this year.
Hunters who take deer in a 600-square-mile area covering parts of York and Adams counties must have them tested for chronic wasting disease. The neurological infection can't be transmitted to humans but is deadly to elk, moose and deer.
Two deer on Adams County farms died of the disease earlier this year, making them the first cases reported in the state. No infections have been reported in the wild population.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.