The official total estimated deer harvest numbers for the 2016-17 season are in and they reflect a buck harvest increase of nine percent. This makes it the largest antlered deer harvest since 2002.
In addition, the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) reports hunters took an estimated 333,254 deer during the 2016-17 seasons, which represents an overall harvest increase of 6 percent.
Of that total, 149,460 were antlered deer - an increase of about 9 percent compared to last season when 137,580 bucks were taken. The percentage of older bucks in the harvest remained high, says the PGC, with 56 percent of them taken during the 2016-17 season being 2.5 years old or older. In the 2015-16 seasons, 59 percent of bucks harvested were 2.5 years old or older.
The PGC also noted that there were 183,794 antlerless deer taken, which represents about 3 percent increase compared to 178,233 antlerless taken in the 2015-16 seasons. The antlerless harvest included about 64 percent adult females, about 20 percent button bucks and about 16 percent doe fawns. All of which are similar to long-term averages concludes the PGC.
Bowhunters it was pointed out, accounted for nearly 33 percent of the overall deer harvest, taking 109,250 deer (59,550 bucks and 49,700 does) with archery gear.
While not as popular as bowhunting, there were 20,409 deer (1,350 bucks and 19,059 does) harvested during the muzzleloader seasons.
According to PGC Executive Director R. Matthew Hough, “This has been quite a year for Pennsylvania deer hunting. Not only was there an increased deer harvest and a significantly higher buck harvest, I saw hundreds of photos from hunters who took their buck-of-a-lifetime this past season. Among them was a hunter whose Clearfield County harvest shattered the state record for nontypical bucks taken with archery gear.
These harvest estimates, says the PGC, were based on more than 24,000 deer checked by PGC personnel and more than 100,000 harvest reports submitted by successful hunters. And because some harvests go unreported, these estimates are a more accurate picture of hunter success.
As for the harvest numbers per Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) and the closest to the Lehigh Valley, they are as follows with 2015-16 numbers in parentheses:
WMU 4C: 6,400 (5,400) antlered; 5,300 (5,000) antlerless
WMU 5C: 8,300 (7,400) antlered; 15,600 (13,600) antlerless
WMU 5D: 2,900 (2,200) antlered; 6,500 (5,200) antlerless
Unknown WMU: 60 (80) antlered; 70 (30) antlerless
Even more interesting to hunters are the season-specific harvests for the above management units.
WMU 4C: archery, 2,570 (2,150) antlered; 1,380 (1,380) antlerless; muzzleloader, 30 (50 antlered; 620 (620) antlerless
WMU 5C: archery, 5,300 (4,880) antlered; 6,990 (6.310) antlerless; muzzleloader, 100 (120) antlered; 1,010 (1,090) antlerless
WMU 5D: archery, 2,280 (1,770) antlered; 4,180 (3,440) antlerless; muzzleloader, 20 (30) antlered, 220 (160) antlerless.
Unknown WMU: archery, 0 (0) antlered; 10 (10) antlerless; muzzleloader, 0 (0) antlered; 10 (0) antlerless.
MENTOURED YOUTH TROUT DAYS
To encourage youngsters to get involved in fishing, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) is again allowing two Mentored Youth Trout Days. The first is this Sat., March 25, in 18 southeastern counties, the other on April 15 before the statewide trout opener.
On these days, participants can fish any PFBC stocked trout waters. Kids can keep two trout, measuring at least seven inches while mentors must have a fishing license and trout stamp. Mentors fishing with kids must release their catch to the water unharmed.
Last year, over 25,600 kids signed up for the program, either by buying a $1 voluntary youth fishing license or by acquiring a free mentored youth fishing permit.
According to the PFBC, a majority of trout waters will be stocked in advance of the mentored youth days.
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.