Last fall, it took just one shot for Nippenose Valley resident Dave Palmatier to down a 140-pound black bear and mark the first notch toward his "triple trophy" for the 2014-15 hunting season.
"(It was) on the same, identical path Dalton shot his bear, except Dalton was on the west line and I was on the east line of the property," Dave said. His son, Dalton, scored his triple last year at the age of 15.
"We were actually walking out of the woods; it was like 10:30 a.m. We were on this path and heard something coming down the mountain. Dalton said, 'Look, there is a bear,' and I am telling you I got pictures you wouldn't believe. It was kind of ironic he was with me," Dave said.
JESSICA WELSHANS/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
Joe Winters, uncle to both Dave and Fred Palmatier, was the first in the family to score a “triple trophy” in 1971. Back then, the accomplishment was recognized by the state Game Commission and sportsmen received a certificate such as the one Winters is holding above. He is kneeling in front of the Lycoming County camp that the family established and has been hunting out of for generations. At top, from left, is Dave Palmatier with his “triple trophy” harvest from the 2013-14 hunting season. He scored the spring gobbler last, while the eight-point white-tailed buck came second. Palmatier began the streak by shooting a 140-pound black bear.
One shot from his 7mm Mag, and it was done. He downed the bruin on opening day.
Although the "triple trophy" no longer is recognized by the state Game Commission, hunters still keep track of the coveted achievement.
In 1966, the Triple Trophy Award was created by the state Game Commission for hunters who harvested an antlered white-tailed deer, a black bear and a wild turkey all within a single hunting license year.
Most who hunt say getting a black bear probably is the hardest game animal - of the three - to harvest.
Dave followed up with a nice eight-point buck on the first Saturday of the season. He shot the deer on private ground in Lycoming County.
"I had my gun leaning against a tree and I leaned back and the gun fell into the snow. So I was cleaning off the gun and scope and here come seven deer, all together, and the buck was one of them," he said.
He pulled up his rifle but had trouble seeing through the scope because it still was wet and foggy. Finally, he spotted the big eight-point through the scope and squeezed off a shot at about 55 yards, while he was sitting on the ground.
The deer marked one more toward the triple, even though from the start of the season, the accomplishment wasn't his end-goal. By this time, he decided he wanted to go for the triple trophy when spring gobbler season hit.
After hunting on his own the first Monday of the spring turkey season, he passed up a bird.
"The first one I passed. Well, I didn't pass it up; I didn't shoot it. It was a good one - 10 1/2-inch beard - and it was what, I figured, 45 yards (away). It thought was too far," Dave said.
He was using a 12-gauge shotgun.
His brother, Fred Palmatier, has been Dave's hunting mentor since the age of 9, when their father passed away. Fred is an avid turkey hunter and the plan was for Dave to hunt with him the first week.
At this point, Dave was ready to get his triple and was going to hunt with Fred to do it.
"I told him (Freddie) the whole story and he said, '45 yards with a gun like that ... you will drop it,' " Dave said.
On their hunt, the brothers heard a gobble at what they estimated was 200 yards.
"He can't hear real well and I can't hear real well either, but better than he can. So we hear this turkey gobble. After (walking) about 400 yards, it still was about 150 yards away," Dave said with a laugh.
They positioned themselves with Fred sitting behind Dave, and he began to call in the gobbler. The bird started in, and, at about 45 yards, Dave remembered Fred told him the gun would drop a bird at that distance.
"He said this gun is going to drop it. So I am either making him a liar or me a monster," Dave said.
Fred used a slate call and some other "tricks" he referred to to get the bird within range.
"I said to him, 'You just let it up to Brother Fred and I will call you in a turkey, no problem,' " Fred said.
It worked. Dave earned his third trophy with an 18-pound gobbler that had an 8 1/2-inch beard.
Pursuing the triple trophy isn't what Dave intended to do at the beginning of the season. In 26 years of hunting black bear, he said he only has had two other opportunities to shoot at one.
"I have put on a lot of miles hunting bear," he said.
For Dave and Fred, hunting is about tradition. It's been passed down through his family, generation after generation.
It all started with their uncle, Joe Winters, the first of the family to receive an actual "Triple Trophy" plaque in 1971.
"He is the one that started the whole thing," Fred said. "He got the first in the family, then Dalton and now David."
Fred and Dave's father taught Fred how to turkey hunt. After their father's death, Fred taught Dave, and Dave taught Dalton and Fred's son, Trevor.
One of the brothers favorite seasons is spring gobbler. They say hunting for the wily bird is a challenge.
"You just don't walk out in the woods and sit down and wait for one to come in," Dave said. "Anyone can call a turkey at 110 yards and make them gobble. He (Fred) always taught me it's about getting that turkey within shooting range - and that is when you have to know what you are doing."
Fred doesn't have the "triple trophy" yet, but he isn't worried. In this year's spring gobbler season, he downed a 21 1/2-pound bird with a 10 1/2-inch beard at 25 yards.
"Bears are the hardest to hunt, and I don't shoot small bucks," Fred said.
For these brothers, the family bond and comradery is what brings the hunting full circle.
"It's rewarding when you see ... you teach him how to hunt turkey and he turns around and teaches Dalton and then my son Trevor," Fred said.
Trevor, who now is 30, shot his first turkey when his was 15, all on his own.
"He has shot some good ones since then," Fred said.