By STEVE FERRIS | (Uniontown) Herald-Standard
UNIONTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Gilbert "Gib" Grote Sr., his son Gilbert "Gib" Grote Jr. and his grandson Alex Grote knew when they were young boys that they wanted to follow their fathers' footsteps into the woods to hunt.
That seemingly inborn enthusiasm to pursue all types of wild game and fish is in the roots of the Grote family tree and it grows stronger with each generation.
The sight of a white-tailed deer in the lowlands of Fayette County was a rarity when Gib Grote Sr., 88, started hunting in the mid-1930s.
"That was unheard of in the lowlands," he said.
Rabbits, pheasants, grouse and squirrels were the quarry that his father taught him and his five brothers to hunt when they turned age 10, the minimum legal hunting age at that time, while growing up in Buffington.
He passed those skills along to his eager-to-learn son.
"I can't remember when I didn't have a gun in my hand," said Gib Grote Jr. "We'd shoot targets, groundhogs. We used to shoot groundhogs all summer. There was no choice: I was going to be a hunter."
The night his son Alex was born, he called his father and reported the birth of a prodigy.
"I called home and said, 'Dad, we've got a hunter.' Did I know he wanted to hunt? No," Gib Grote Jr. said.
But, he was right.
"I'm obsessed with it," said Alex Grote, 27. "I was wreaking havoc when I was a kid with a .22 (caliber)."
"He was a dead eye at 5," Gib Grote Sr. said proudly in the basement of his son's home in the Dunlap Creek Lake area where Alex Grote bunks when he returns from his job as a state police trooper in Chambersburg to hunt. He said his transfer to the Uniontown station will take place in the spring.
"My days off revolve around hunting season," Alex said.
The walls of the finished room are a showcase of the plethora of mounted deer heads and antlers, turkey beards and fish the Grotes kept as reminders of the game they harvested over the years. Full-body mounts of two black bears, including a 500-pound trophy Alex Grote harvested several years ago, occupy a corner of the floor.
But, it was small game that Gib Grote Sr. first drew a bead on when he went afield with his father and their beagles.
"I couldn't wait to go when I was a kid. I was an eager beaver," Gib Grote Sr. said.
Deer remained an anomaly in the lower elevations when Gib Grote Jr. started hunting in the 1960s.
"Dad took me to the mountains. There were no deer in the lowlands," Gib Grote Jr. said.
He remembers the spectacle that occurred one day when a deer was struck and killed by a car in New Salem.
"People took pictures. Everybody came to see it," Gib Grote Jr. said.
In those early days, Gib Grote Sr. said he never passed on a change to harvest a buck regardless of the size of its antlers.
"We never passed on a spike," he said.
The deer population gradually increased and hunting opportunities improved for the lineage of hunters in the Grote family.
Gib Grote Sr. shot a doe there during a three-day rifle season set aside for junior, senior and disabled hunters and active military and Coast Guard members in October.
As of last week, Gib Grote Jr. and Alex Grote were still waiting for bucks to walk under their tree stands within range of their bows. Alex Grote said he arrowed a coyote in the early part of the archery season.
In addition to a family farm in Smock where the Grotes hunt now, Alex Grote also hunts deer in West Virginia and Ohio. He hunts does, but, because of his past success and numerous opportunities, he said he waits for bucks sporting large antlers that look to be in the 130-inch class.
"I don't want just a buck," Alex said.
"We have a farm. We can be selective," Gib Grote Jr. said. "In the game lands, you have to shoot any eight-point. Us three are a little more fortunate."
Alex Grote said he kills three or four deer a year and enjoys processing the meat into sausage and bologna.
He said he taught his girlfriend to archery hunt and he was with her in a two-person tree stand when she killed her first deer this year.
Teaching Alex Grote to hunt and fish was more than just passing down a pastime for his father.
"They learn things they will have for the rest of their lives. I taught Alex to fish. He'll teach his kids, hopefully," Gib Grote Jr. said.
Information from: Herald-Standard, www.heraldstandard.com