As the archery deer hunting season kicked off this past weekend in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D while the statewide archery deer season opens Sept. 30, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has issued a Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) reminder to hunters hunting in CWD areas with a new one designated as DMA8 (Disease Management Area). Disease Management Area 8 includes portions of Dauphin, Lebanon, Northumberland and Schuylkill counties after CWD showed up in two road-killed deer in Dauphin. It seems the disease may be spreading.
For sportsmen unfamiliar with CWD, it’s akin to mad cow disease in cattle. It’s a neurological disease with a 100 percent mortality rate that’s caused by a naturally occurring protein called a prion, that becomes misfolded. This protein resists break down in deer, elk moose and reindeer. CWD has been detected in 30 states as well as five Canadian provinces, Finland, Norway, South Korea and Sweden, say biologists.
The disease is a challenge to fight and it spreads easily. CWD is transmitted, says the PGC, through bodily secretions, making animal-to-animal contact and contact with contaminated surfaces. Interestingly, an infected animal will not show any signs of CWD until late in the course of the disease, meaning animals with CWD can carry and pass along the disease for several years before ever showing the first sign.
Tracking CWD is difficult in that testing for the disease requires removal of the animal’s lymph nodes and in the case of deer, and lymph nodes and obex from elk. It’s the tissue from these body parts that’s used in testing for the disease and they include the head, brain, tonsils, eyes, spinal cord, backbone, spleen, skull plate with antlers attached and other high-risk parts.
There’s no evidence that humans can contact CWD, but public health officials studying the disease say that prions cannot be destroyed with radiation or heat below 1,000 degrees. This means hunters cannot destroy the disease through cooking the meat.
While there has been no evidence that humans can contact CWD, biologists studying the disease found that monkeys who consumed contaminated meat can contact CWD. Therefore, it’s not recommended to eat meat from a CWD positive animal.
If hunters suspect their deer is infected, the PGC has established check points or bins where hunters can take the deer or to approved cooperating processors and taxidermists. Locally it’s Frables Deer Processing in Slatington.
As a reminder, it’s illegal to import high-risk parts from any out of state deer or province outside Pennsylvania unless going directly to a PGC cooperator. These and deposit bins can be found on the agency’s website at www.pgc.pa.gov/cwd.
DEER SCENT AVAILABLE
With the start of bow season in 2B, 5C and 5D, you may want to increase your luck on a buck by teasing his scent of smell. By that I mean using deer scent to lure-in a big guy.
Aside from the pre-bottled type commercial scents that hang on store shelves that could be scent from last year, Yurine Luck scent is fresh and freshly bottled by Bob Danenhower’s Bob’sWildlife Taxidermy on 4262 Kernsville Road, Orefield.
Danenhower gets fresh scent in weekly in bulk and bottles it for sale. Call the shop before making the trip there (610-398-7609) to make sure he has some remaining as it goes fast every year at this time. Quite a few of his taxidermy customers used his scent to bring in some nice racked bucks.
With the archery deer hunting season set to kick off this Saturday, Sept. 16 in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5C and 5D, as well as archery bear in these same units, you aren’t alone as a bowhunter.
According to research numbers from the Archery Trade Association (ATA), there are 3,761,233 bowhunters in the United States. To come up with that head count, the ATA worked with state wildlife agencies and the National Deer Association to determine bowhunting participation numbers in each state for the 2021-22 hunting season. Whether it’s a relatively small number of bowhunters in Hawaii (1,384) or more than 331,000 here in Pennsylvania, the total numbers make it apparent that bowhunting remains significant to the hunting world.
According to the latest stats, there were 15.2 million hunting license holders in all categories in the U.S. All categories include rifles, pistols, shotguns and bow (vertical and horizontal).
It’s worth noting, that the current numbers are being bolstered by younger hunters. That implies that feeder groups lie S3DA and NASP in schools, are doing more than adding seasoned competitors to our junior Olympic teams.
ATA says that according to research by the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, participants ages 6-17 make up 23 percent of all bow hunters. That’s up from 13 percent a decade earlier. Whereas bowhunters 65 and older saw an 8 percent average annual growth. And this could be with the easier to shoot crossbows.
Add to this, the same Council found that 27 percent of hunting participants were female while the number of Black and Hispanic hunters also showed growth.
Interestingly, the biggest takeaways from the Council’s research were that 49 percent of hunters participated before the age of 18, and 68 percent were introduced to hunting by family members.
Another interesting number ATA learned was that in their 2021 state-by-state bowhunter study, the following states had six-digit numbers of bowhunters. They are as follows:
Arkansas, 128,810; Illinois, 173,710; Michigan, 304,278; New York, 244,226; Ohio, 172,967; Oklahoma, 117, 216; Missouri, 202,726; Pennsylvania, 331,000; Texas, 168,301; Wisconsin, 307,450.
It’s apparent from these that Pennsylvania can officially claim to be the bowhunting capital in the USA.
Perhaps one reason for the aforementioned is the number of deer we have. They are all over including places they’re not expected to be. Name a patch of woods, even a fencerow, and there’s a good chance there are deer there. If my one late grandfather who lived in Ironton and traveled to Pike County every season to deer hunt and would rarely see a buck, were alive today, he couldn’t believe there would be deer in his backyard.
My buddy who lives on Buckingham Drive in Salisbury Township near Lehigh Parkway, has deer almost daily in his back yard.
Another friend who lives in Moore Township, came home one recent morning to find a nice buck sitting under his apple tree and another buck sitting by a bush.
Then there’s the small field off MacArthur Road and adjacent to Whitehall Police’s active shooting range. Usually one or two doe can be seen in the morning munching on soybeans. The shooting doesn’t seem to bother them.
Of course there’s also GES Chemicals (formerly Trojan Powder Company), whose huge land holdings are home to a large deer herd that keeps perpetuating.
Again, this is could be why bowhunting is so popular in Pennsylvania and in some cases, residents don’t hear it happening as one landowner I spoke to who allows hunting, put it.
With the countdown starting for the opening of bowhunting seasons for deer and bear in WMU’s 2B, 5C and 5D on Sept. 16, and if you haven’t already, it’s time to check your gear so you don’t have an equipment problem come the opener.
To find out the prime problems bowhunters encounter after putting their gear away at the end of last season, I contacted Rick Weaknecht of Weaknecht Archery in Kutztown, one of the oldest and most popular archery dealers in a five-county area.
According to Weaknecht, hunters who use crossbows experience the most problems. He recommends changing the strings yearly as they stretch more as they’re under great tension and that goes for the cables as well as they will break. And particularly so if it’s an old one like my Horton crossbow.
As for compounds, the most widely used bow, their strings need to be changed if not yearly then every two years if the bow is shot heavily like for 3D shoots or a lot of practice. The wheels, says Weaknecht, aren’t particularly troublesome especially with the newer bows. But if you have an old one, like my trusty Oregon Bow that are no longer made, it’s best to get the strings and cables changed.
If using a climbing tree-stand or even a ladder stand, check for loose bolts or nylon straps that may have withered or worn over the years.
Another problem for hunters using a drop-away rest, over time they have a tendency to loosen and may fall-away too easily.
Arrows are not much of a problem said Weaknecht since the newer carbon arrows aren’t susceptible to bend like aluminum arrows. And they are faster for deeper penetration.
When asked what are his top selling compound bows he didn’t hesitate to say Matthews and Hoyt, two long-time favorites of bowhunters. And for crossbows, it’s the Ravin, despite its astronomical price. But Weaknecht adds that a lot of hunters are buying them. “They don’t seem to mind the price for Ravin’s speed and cocking convenience,” he opined.
One hunting item not covered with Weaknecht is camo clothing. It doesn’t matter what brand you like, it’s time to re-wash them and hang them outside to rid them of any indoor odors and that includes facemasks if you use them in lieu of camo makeup. Some veteran bowhunters package their washed camo clothes in plastic bags until the season opener. Same goes for hunting boots. With all the new anti-odor sprays and washes on the market, they make the chore less of a chore.
The first part of the archery deer hunting season in WMU’s 2B, 5C and 5D has split seasons running Sept. 16-Nov.11; Sunday, Nov. 12; Nov. 13-18; Sunday, Nov. 19; Nov. 20-24 and Dec. 26-Jan. 27, 2023. Statewide, the season kicks off Sept 30- Nov. 11, Sunday, Nov. 12; Nov. 13-17; Dec. 26-Jan. 14, 2023.
But before the bowhunting season kicks off, the multi-part squirrel season starts this weekend Sept. 9 – Nov. 11; Sunday, Nov. 12; Nov. 13-18; Sunday, Nov. 19; Nov. 20-24; Dec. 11-23; Dec. 26-Feb. 29, 2023. Without a doubt, squirrels are our most abundant game animals. And they’re good eating if prepared properly.
The first part of the small game season got underway today (Sept. 1) when dove becomes legal game.
These fast flyers are a challenge to hunt in that they at the sight of movement from the ground or the report of a shotgun, they’re dip and turn and will turn on the afterburners to escape the danger.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, doves are the most abundant game bird. They prefer agricultural areas due to the abundance of food and roosting trees and in particular clumps of conifer trees at night and dead snags during the day. Although there also seems to be a good population of doves in the city of Allentown as folks maintain bird feeders that are an easy food source for them, and they won’t be shot at.
But typically, doves prefer open woodland edges and their favored habitat includes farmland with scattered trees - predominately cedar, spruce and pine - and shrubs, open woods, orchards, roadside trees and suburban gardens. Doves usually avoid dense forests says the PGC.
In general, doves concentrate in areas with plentiful weed seeds or waste grain, and near trees for roosting and nesting. And within easy flight of a water source. In the suburbs, the water source could be bird baths or puddles created by all the rain we’ve been getting.
But the big question is where to hunt them with all the development Lehigh and Northampton counties have experienced.
Years ago, when my son was a teenager, we hunted a sunflower field across from the Mack Truck plant in Macungie. The dove action was non-stop despite shooting at them as they seemed to be determined to feed on the sunflowers. It was a memorable day as my son scored on several doubles, something I was never able to do. That field is now gone and was replaced with buildings.
If hunters can locate a field or farm with sunflowers and hunt the safe perimeter of them, the action could be quite productive.
Of course, it’s sad to report that farmlands are beginning to dwindle thanks to development. One prime example of this is in Lyons, in upper Berks County and across from Weavers Hardware store. Here, East Penn Manufacturing (Deka Battery) purchased a huge tract of farmland from a Mennonite farmer to erect a large solar farm to power their battery making business. I would always see a good number of doves on the powerlines along this pristine farmland. A real shame.
In fact, compared to Lehigh and Northampton counties, upper Berks probably has the most farmland that is primarily owned by Mennonite farmers.
If locating a viable place to hunt, keep in mind State Game Land #205 in Lowhill Township, Lehigh County, has managed food crop fields developed by the game commission that draw doves. There’s also SGL #182 in Berks County on the outskirts of Kutztown and off Route 222.
Dove hunting has a split season with the first running from Friday, Sept 1 until Nov. 24 and again from Dec. 19 to Jan. 6, 2024.
Keep in mind in addition to a general hunting license, hunters also need a Migratory Game Bird License that can be purchased at a license issuing agency or online at www.huntfish.pa.gov.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.