Days on the Allegheny A True Tale
By Joe Ewing
The quiet was deafening. The only sound I could hear was the snowflakes as they splashed onto the dried leaves of the beech. The noises of the pileated woodpecker were silent. The majestic woodpecker couldn’t be heard knocking at dead trees in search of their prey or making their wuking cr-r-ruck calls. The conspiring caws and squawks of the noisy ravens were suppressed. Not a squirrel or a chick-a-dee moved. Even the manmade high-pitched whine of the forever present chainsaw and the throaty rumble of the mighty log skidder were still. It was all in solemn reference I supposed. There was no beagle music ringing across the Alleghenies. The music was dead. It was an end of an era. Was I taking it all too seriously? One thing I knew for certain, it was all my fault.
As I peered out across the pristine snowpack of the Allegheny I was recalling the many days over the decades these very woods had come alive with the sounds of joyous beagle music. It was the scene of many great hare chases. The majestic snowshoe hares had led many amazing beagles up the hills and down for many years. I’d selected this location because it was deep in the Allegheny National Forest, it was pristine and it was my favorite place in the world. I felt certain on many moon-lit nights these ancient mountains would come alive with music from the phantom pack of beagles that roam these hills.
They claim these old hills are more than 300 million years old. They were created by the collision of continents. The Alleghenies were, at one time, as rugged and as high as the Himalayas. They were higher than the Rocky Mountains. The Alleghenies are made up of three distinct formations. The Allegheny Front, the Allegheny Mountains and the Allegheny Plateau. It is on the plateau where I have spent my life chasing the magnificent snowshoe hare.
The end of this story began back on January 26, 2011. My long-time hunting buddy Andy and I, along with a pack of hounds were searching for snowshoe hare in the Allegheny National Forest. The Pennsylvania snowshoe hare season had ended twenty-five days earlier. We were scouting out a familiar hare cover we’d hunted for years. We’d scouted for hare here earlier in the “extreme season” with nary a bark or a sign. Not even a desperate whine on a cold trail was heard from the beagles. I was determined to find some sign of a hare. In my heart I knew it was a hopeless cause. I felt sure the area had been shot out. It was my mistake.
During the previous regular season at least three snowshoe hares had been killed in this cover, maybe more. One by a member of our own Big Woods Hare Hunters and two hares by a member from our beagle club. I didn’t know anyone else was in the woods hunting. I should’ve known. Brad desperately wanted to kill another hare. He’d killed one the year before. I don’t know why we allowed it. Perplexing is why Joe needed to take two hares from one cover.
Don’t miss the rest of this article starting on page 28 of our April issue!