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thedrifter
02-19-08, 10:24 AM
Hunting homecoming
Injured and released from the Marines, Marietta hunter seeking solace embarks on amazing hunting odyssey. He even gets a bear with a crossbow.

By AD CRABLE, Outdoor Trails

Philip Carroll of Marietta joined the Marines right out of high school in 2004. One of the things he missed most during two years of intense training at Camp Lejeune, N.C., was hunting.

This past May the reconnaissance Marine was injured, losing 80 percent of the use of his right arm.

"One of the first concerns was how it would affect hunting, because that's all I do," observes the 22-year-old Carroll.

Given a medical discharge from the Marines, Carroll "just wanted some time to be alone and get my head straight."

Thus began Carroll's amazing hunting odyssey.

In May, Carroll drove to a farm property in upstate New York owned by one of his fellow Marines. He'd never gotten a turkey. The first morning, he set up along the edge of a field and yelped with his Lynch box call.

He heard five turkeys fly down from the woods and one walked into the field within range. Using shooting sticks and the 12-gauge Remington his father had given him for Christmas two years ago, Carroll shot the gobbler with a 5-inch beard at 7:30. He shared the turkey with family and friends a week later.

In June, fishing on the Susquehanna River near Columbia with his grandfather, Phil Haverstroh of Columbia, Carroll landed his biggest smallmouth ever, a 17-incher.

In September, Carroll, who has a well-trained English setter bird dog, hosted a friend, Frank Kurlin of Mount Joy, and his two sons for the boys' first pheasant hunt on Lebanon County game lands. Both the boys, ages 12 and 14, got their first ringnecks.

Later that month, Carroll packed up and headed for the tundra of the Nunavut Territories of northern Quebec for a semi-guided nine-day caribou and black bear hunt he had purchased with money saved from his stint in the Marines.

It rained constantly and never got above 40 degrees but Carroll glassed hundreds of caribou from the famed Leaf River herd. On the second day, Carroll spotted a respectable buck a half-mile away. For two hours, as the buck bedded down, the hunter stalked it downwind. When it stood up, Carroll delivered a killing shot with his .300 Winchester rifle.

Holding out for a bigger buck, Carroll found it on the third day. The buck had a rare nontypical rack, which Carroll is having mounted.

The meat, which Carroll and the guides carried out in backpacks, "has no game taste at all," he reports.

With both caribou permits filled, Carroll set his sights on a black bear. Several were spotted at a distance but disappeared as the hunter got closer.

On day five, he successfully stalked and shot a 150-pound bear with a 200-yard shot.

After that, Carroll spent a couple days catching lake trout and brook trout up to 4 pounds with spinning rods.

Back in Lancaster County, archery season soon arrived. The partial use of his right arm made him incapable of drawing back a compound bow, so Carroll received a permit from the Pennsylvania Game Commission to use a crossbow. He uses a pulley system to cock the weapon.

For eight straight days in October, Carroll hunted with a friend on woodlots near Cochranville, Chester County.

He passed on five legal bucks. "I just wanted something bigger than I've ever shot," he says, recalling the five bucks he had shot to date.

The afternoon of the eighth day he was sitting at the base of a tree when he saw six deer — three of them bucks — working their way up a creek bottom. "As soon as I saw those antlers, I said, "That's good enough,'" he recalls. Resting the crossbow on his knee, he dropped in its tracks a six-pointer with a 17-inch spread, shot broadside at 25 yards.

Carroll also took a doe on the same property a week later, then shot a doe on New York property newly leased by his father.

A few weeks later, on the first week in November, Carroll took two turkeys over three days with a shotgun on the 131-acre leased property.

But he was far from done in immersing himself in the sport he loves so dearly.

Carroll headed to Clinton County to a friend's property for the two-day archery season for bear. Sitting on a treestand on opening morning, watching a natural funnel, Carroll saw a black blob about 70 yards off. At the quartering away shot, the bear spun, ran 30 yards and laid down.

On his first Pennsylvania bear hunt ever, only 90 minutes into it, Carroll became only the fifth hunter so far to use a crossbow to kill a bear during the bear archery season.

The male bear weighed 165 pounds, field-dressed. The hide is being made into a rug.

With a deer and bear under his belt, Carroll was lacking only a turkey to record a coveted "grand slam" in Pennsylvania. He had some close calls but couldn't nail down a gobbler.

Next, Carroll headed back to the family's newfound treasure in New York for the second week of the rifle deer season.

On the third day, he shot a fine eight-pointer with a 15-inch spread at a mere 50 yards. He gave away deer bologna from the deer for Christmas presents.

Since then, Carroll has been having successful days hunting ducks and geese from a blind on the Susquehanna near Marietta. "I haven't had a skunked day yet," he reports.

In recent days, as part of the late archery season, Carroll has been trying to put friends on to deer at his Chester County hotspots.

Carroll is still high from his hunting thrills of the last seven months. "They say you have to put in your time in the woods and things will happen," he says.

"I feel extremely lucky and just happy. I will probably never have a year like this again.

"It was a great welcome back to the great Pennsylvania woods."

Ellie