Apparel of protection explained

Recently, feeling the warmth of Indian summer last week, I decided to take a walk in the woods along Loyalhanna Creek. Clad in orange from head to waist, I felt protected. After all, I was heading into an area where hunters may be targeting small game or deer.

My experience reminded me of a letter I got from a good friend via the Internet.

A number of years ago, I featured John Stewart in the Latrobe Bulletin because of his expertise of being a muzzleloader marksman. Since then, he has been keeping up his reputation concerning the sport of hunting. This is what he told me in his email:

“I was sitting on a log near the remains of the Oaks Point Cabin on State Game Lands #153 in Indiana County, watching for squirrels. Lily, the little brown hound, was roaming around the vicinity, exercising her curiosity and tantalizing her olfactory sensors with the smorgasbord of interesting scents that are found in such a locale. I believe that she really enjoys these outings more than I do.

Anyhow, my mind began to wander, as it often does in such circumstances. As I gazed upon the coveralls that I was wearing, I recalled the column that you had written about camouflage. I regarded the blaze orange camouflage pattern of the coveralls and thought, ‘Wait! Is this an oxymoron?’ After all, blaze orange is supposed to have the opposite effect. Actually it’s not an oxymoron. It achieves both effects.”

“Animals,” the Ave. B resident told me, “don’t have color vision, so, to them, the blaze orange, is another shade of gray. I believe that, to a deer, white would be more vibrant than the orange would, since they use white as a danger signal,” he told me.

“The camouflage pattern, like an optical illusion, confuses them as to what this object they are observing actually is. When they’re confused, they get concerned, but don’t panic.”

He then went on to tell me, “I have stood in an open field, wearing my coveralls, and had deer walk up to within 15 feet of me. They knew I was there, but they couldn’t figure out what I was. I’d stay real still, almost close my eyes so I wouldn’t blink and avoid making eye contact. They’d go into their usual routine to try to provoke me to move. It’s quite a show, almost hilarious. I’ve had them hang around for minutes at a time. Of course, once they detect some movement or catch my scent, it’s time for panic-stricken flight. This, too, is quite a show. Also, I’ve had some get bored or something and simply wander off.”

Stewart tacked on a couple of postscripts that may clear up some questions that may be going through one’s mind.

“The squirrels never did show up,” he explained. “Maybe they were celebrating some squirrel holiday!”

And second, “The Oaks Point Cabin is in the vicinity where Tom Skelten, the legendary Ghost of Packsaddle Gap, allegedly shot and buried his girlfriend. I’ve been in the gap late at night a number of times, but never observed old Tom. Maybe he got bored with the whole thing and left!”

I Googled “Packsaddle Gap” and found some more information.

Seems this place is located where the Conemaugh River cuts through Chestnut Ridge between Bolivar and Blairsville. The second deepest in Pennsylvania, the gorge has a depth of 1,310 feet. From the Gap to Blairsville is a two mile area with remnants of the old Pennsylvania canal. Below this area, the river enters Conemaugh Lake, a large flood-control reservoir managed by the Army Corp of Engineers.

It has been said that the valley is haunted by a hunter who accidentally shot his girlfriend while he was hunting for deer. Although this accident happened at the turn of the century, his guilt keeps him there, perhaps to warn others.

Could this have been the beginnings of when hunters started wearing orange? Maybe that will be another story in the making.

My thanks go out to my fellow Latrobean who shared his wealth of knowledge with us in addition to a bit of humor that he always brings to the fore front when telling some of his many stories. Over the years, God has always seen to it that He has John cross my path so that a new story is shared proving that there is always much to talk about concerning the great outdoors.

Now he’s got me thinking. I wander if I walked out in a corn field near St. Vincent Lake and stood still like a scare crow for hours on end. Would deer come up to me as well, especially when it was just starting to get dark? If I doused myself with a de-scenting lotion, would that help? As much as I love animals, I’ll leave this experiment to someone else. Maybe they can write to me, and I’ll have another story about which to tell!

Article by:
Paul J. Volkmann (November 6, 2008)

Inside the Outdoors November 14 2008
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