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The first Monday after the Thanksgiving Holiday is a time of great danger in the woodlands of Pennsylvania.
This is because some 800,000 orange-clad hunters take to Penn's Woods in pursuit of the elusive White-tailed Deer, specifically the male of the species.
Sometimes called the 'Pennsylvania Orange Army', these deer hunters take to the woods before dawn to find the most favourable spot for sunrise and the start of Antlered Deer Hunting Season. For some this means climbing a tree and sitting among the limbs until an unsuspecting deer wanders through the rifle scope's crosshairs. For others it means finding tracks and following them in the hope of catching up with the deer. For others, it means going into the woods to the spot where the crafty hunter has been leaving corn feed for weeks before the start of hunting season1.
Hunting is big business in Pennsylvania. Many schools are closed on the first day of Deer Season. The thought process is that a third of the schools' student bodies and staff will skip classes to go hunting anyway so why even bother having the rest come in to school.
Of course, with 800,000 armed people tromping around in the woods, it is a very dangerous time to go into the state's forests without a bright orange suit similar to the ones the hunters wear. And even these safety colours do not prevent a few hunters every year from getting shot as they walk through the dried leaves. It seems that many take the 'shoot first and identify the target later' approach to hunting.
One hunter pulled a white handkerchief out of his pocket to blow his nose while in the woods. Three different hunters saw the white and mistaking it for a deer's tail, shot the man, killing him instantly with three slugs to the face. Every year, someone living near the woodlands reports that their white dog or cat is missing and the body is usually found a short time later riddled with bullets from high-powered rifles.
In some areas of the state, farmers paint their cows orange to help identify them for the hunters.
The rationale behind this 'sport' is purely altruistic, according to the hunters. If they didn't go into the woods and kill a few thousand deer, the deer population would swell beyond the natural balance, resulting in starvation and death for many deer each winter when foodstuffs are scarce.
Others claim to enjoy the taste of venison, going so far as to make 'Deer Sausage' and 'Deer Bologna'. However, for many it is the simple power trip of blasting another carbon-based life form with a high-powered rifle and mounting its head upon the living room wall.
This process is repeated a few weeks later with the start of 'Doe Season' when antlerless deer become the targets. But having an antlerless head mounted upon the wall isn't nearly as macho and subsequently this day isn't treated with the same holiday status as the beginning of 'Buck Season'.