You never know what you're going to see.
This time of the year, it pays to keep an eye toward the edge of the woods. Not only will you see plenty of deer sneaking into moonlit fields for an easy meal, but you'll also see a wide variety of other woodland creatures, including my favorite, the beautiful and sly red fox.
As winter weather sets in, these cautious critters are forced to come out of their daytime hiding spots and spend more time looking for food.
With a flock of chickens grazing in my backyard, a fox sighting isn’t always welcomed news around my house. But this past week, I couldn’t help but watch a couple of the critters having some fun as the afternoon sun set early on the winter solace.
Really, fox sightings like these are fairly common in Pennsylvania. The state boasts a very large red and gray fox population. In fact, some folks would argue the population is far too high. And in most places, they're right.
Just like the state’s deer population, we’ve got foxes in all the wrong places. Rarely does a day go by in the fall when I don’t see a fox that met an unfortunate death under a car’s tires. In the state’s suburban areas, the small dog-like creatures seemingly appear out of nowhere as they scurry across the road.
Nobody knows exactly how many foxes are in Pennsylvania. We have a hard enough time keeping track of high-profile big game such as deer. Each year, though, hunters and trappers kill roughly 30,000 red foxes and 20,000 gray foxes. Since they have little problem adapting to a suburban environment, the animals and their prized pelts live in all 67 of the state’s counties.
Hunting the mainly nocturnal animals can be a challenge, so many furtakers use traps. But just because finding and shooting a fox can be difficult, doesn’t mean it's not a fun cold-weather activity.
Most farmers are glad to accommodate somebody who wants to get rid of the foxes on their property, which are often viewed as costly nuisances around farms. Hunters with the proper licenses can take an unlimited number of the animals during the season, which runs from October until February.
To have success, stay out of the deep woods. Work the edges of fields and open valleys. When they're hunting, foxes love to stalk open ground, especially if there are some tall weeds to provide cover as they search for their favorite prey.
Keep an eye to the wood lines this fall and you’ll see plenty of great hunting opportunities. Don’t forget, Pennsylvania is filled with far more game animals than just deer.
You just have to know where to look.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.