This hunting season was full of surprises and proud accomplishments for Dalton Palmatier, of Oval.
While recovering from knee surgery, the 15-year-old achieved what formerly was known as a “triple trophy” in Pennsylvania hunting lore.
In 1966, the state Game Commission created the Triple Trophy Award for hunters who harvested an antlered white-tailed deer, a black bear and a wild turkey all within a single hunting license year.
Although the commission no longer recognizes the accomplishment, generation hunters still throw the term around and deem it a great achievement for a sportsman.
Dalton didn’t set out to get the triple when hunting season began last year. He didn’t even know it existed.
On Nov. 17, the first day of black bear season, he and his dad, Dave, sat at opposite ends of the kitchen table.
“I got up in the morning and I was sitting in that chair and he was sitting in that one,” Dalton pointed. They were both getting dressed for the hunt.
“I said, ‘It’s going to be a good morning, pop,’ ” Dalton said.
They headed to his great uncle’s private ground in Lycoming County.
“It was a very short (hunt),” Dave said.
In a little over 20 minutes, Dalton said, they heard noises.
“A big branch snapped behind me and then here comes this big ol’ black bear,” he said.
Dalton took a shot with a BSA .306 from the spot where he and his dad were sitting on the ground. The male black bear topped the scales at 192 pounds.
“I couldn’t ask for better. It was awesome,” Dalton said.
He found luck on that same trail on Dec. 1, the first day of buck season.
“There is a path up there, near the hunting cabin … it was actually on the same path he shot his bear, probably only 400 yards from where he shot his bear,” Dave said.
Dalton took the three-point whitetail down with same .306.
“I could see the horns in broad daylight and they were about yay long,” Dalton said, holding up his hands. “I could see them perfectly. I was like, ‘That is a buck.’ I am still young enough to shoot a small one.”
The shot he took was a complicated one, he remembered, because it was through branches and he had a very small spot in which he could hit the deer.
“I knew I had to take him at that point and I knew if I didn’t, he would have got away,” Dalton said.
He closed that season out happy again.
Dalton is an athlete, too, and when the baseball preseason arrived, he began conditioning. But, he noticed his knee had begun to hurt.
A trip to the doctor and subsequent X-rays revealed Dalton had osteochondritis dissecans, a disorder in which fragments of bone break off from the knee joint surface.
Physicians found pieces of dead bone on the bottom of his femur, the teen said.
He underwent surgery, during which doctors drilled holes into the bad bone and into the good bone to get blood to circulate back into it.
He was told not to walk on the knee for six weeks.
But, spring gobbler season was coming. On April 20, he and his father ventured out for the youth turkey day. Dalton was eight days out from his knee surgery and was on crutches.
“We went to Uncle Dave’s ground again. We drove like halfway up through the woods because I was on crutches,” he said.
Finally they were close enough to their site that Dalton could get there on his crutches. His knee wasn’t bothering him, but maneuvering through the forest on the crutches was another story.
“It was just going uphill. I was getting frustrated with my crutches,” Dalton said. “I just wanted to throw my crutches.”
Once father and son had hunkered down, Dave called for the turkeys. In minutes, Dalton said, they were surrounded by birds.
After a triple gobble from a semi-close bird, the two knew it was on.
“I couldn’t hear it until it got really close. Dad told me to get situated and get set up on that turkey … he was coming pretty fast,” Dalton said.
Thanks to a number of hens located up the mountain from their spot, the gobbler was headed toward them, but right to Dalton’s line of sight.
With his dad’s 12-gauge, Dalton took down a 22-pound gobbler with a 10-inch beard.
“He has enough experience now. This is his third gobbler,” Dave said.
Dalton never really set out to achieve the triple trophy. He only learned about it just after he took his buck.
“My dad’s brother was saying stuff about it and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s cool! I hope I can get one of those,’ ” he said.
Hunting is a family activity for the Palmatiers, and Dave is very proud of his son’s achievement.
“You can’t get much prouder than that as a father, especially since he has been hunting with me since he was a little tyke,” Dave said.
Dalton was about 6 when his dad started taking him out in the woods. He also hunts with his uncles.
“I just went out with him. I didn’t shoot or anything,” Dalton said.
He said he enjoys the time he gets to spend with his father and his uncles, whether it’s hunting or hanging out at the cabin.
Only one other member of their cabin has a triple trophy and that is his
father’s uncle, Joe Winter.
“He is 70 years old and he did it back when the Game Commission recognized it as a triple trophy,” Dave said.
Dalton said he is having his bear done in a full-sized mount by Leland Taxidermy, of Montoursville.
His turkey is being done as a breast mount.
Dalton likes the peace and quiet of the woods, and “also anticipating what I’m going to see and what could happen,” he said. “I like the adrenaline rush when you see an animal and when you shoot at it, the rush you get.”
Dalton said he looks at his dad’s big bucks mounted on the wall of their house, and hopes for that someday.
“I think, ‘Holy crap, they are big.’ I want to shoot one like that,” he said.
After this season, black bear is his favorite game to hunt.
Dave has got to catch up to Dalton; he still hasn’t gotten a bear yet.