As we celebrate this weeks Thanksgiving Day, the yearly holiday also marks the traditional Monday-after-Thanksgiving start of the firearms deer hunting season in Pennsylvania. It’s a time when close to a million orange-clad hunters take to Penn’s Woods in hopes of adding some healthy venison to the dinner table.
During the 2015-16 deer hunting seasons, hunters took a total of 315,813 deer, or about a four percent increase over the 2014-15 harvest of 303,973. Of that number, 137,580 were antlered deer that reflected an increase of about 15 percent over the previous season’s harvest of 119,260. And that resulted in a whopping 59 percent of bucks that were 2 ? years old or older, which makes it the highest percentage of adult bucks in the harvest in decades, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC).
As for antlerless deer, there were 178,233 taken in 2015-16, which represents about a four percent decrease compared to 184,713 taken in 2014-15 seasons. Do these numbers reflect a decrease in the number of antlerless deer statewide, or were hunters passing on doe in favor of big bucks?
The PGC said that was most likely due to a decreased antlerless license allocation, however success rate was still about 25 percent which has been a predictable number.
Travis Lau, PGC information officer, explained that a reduced allocation within a Wildlife Management Unit allows deer numbers to grow there. “Records show it takes an allocation of about four antlerless licenses to harvest one antlerless deer,” said Lau.
Last years harvest estimates 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 hunters don’t report their harvests as they’re supposed to, the PGC had to estimate the harvest. However, the PGC said hunters’ reports increased slightly last year.
The antlerless harvest included about 63 percent adult females, about 20 percent button bucks and about 17 percent doe fawns. The results, according to the PGC, were similar to long-term averages.
The total deer harvest estimates for a local three WMU area are as follows, with 2014-15 in parenthesis for comparison with the “A” representing antlered deer while AL represented antlerless.
WMU 3D: 3,500 (4,200) A; 3,700 (5,200) AL
WMU 4C: 5,400 (4,800) A; 5,000 (5,000) AL
WMU 5C: 7,400 (8,000) A; 13,600 (22,200) AL
WMU 5D: 2,200 (1,300) A; 5,200 (3,800) AL
Unknown WMU: 80 (60) A; 30 (31) AL
The following is the 2015-16 breakdown per archery and muzzleloader harvests, and per antlered and antlerless deer.
WMU 3D: Archery, 1060 (1,350) A; 980 (960) AL; Muzzleloader, 40 (50) A; 520 (440) AL
WMU 4C: Archery, 2,150 (1,840) A; 1,380 (1,240) AL; Muzzleloader, 50 (60) A; 620 (660) AL
WMU 5C: Archery, 4,880 (4,790) A; 6,310 (10,210) AL; Muzzleloader 120 (110) A; 1,090 (1,490) AL
WMU 5D: Archery, 1,770 (990) A; 3,440 (2,730) AL
Unknown WMU: Archery 0 (40) A; 10 (0) AL; Muzzleloader, 0 (0) A; 0 (0) AL
A 4-percent increase was not a massacre and field reports showed that restrictions are working by virtue of the larger racks that field reports indicate were taken.
This year, the regular centerfire firearms season ends Dec. 2 in all WMU’s except 2B, 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D, which ends Dec. 10.
If you strike out during this season, there’s still the after-Christmas flintlock season Dec. 26-Jan. 14 and in WMU 2B, 5C and 5D until Jan. 28. There’s also the Extended Firearms season Dec. 26-Jan. 28 for antlerless only deer in Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.
If you’re lucky and harvest a buck or doe and are looking for a local meat processor, the new kid on the block is Dennis Haas (610-657-4374 after 6 p.m.) in Leather Corner Post; then there’s Lazarus Market (610-799-3831), Whitehall; Frable’s & Son (610-767-7986), Slatington; Hartman’s Meats (610-298-8232) New Tripoli; Kessler’s Locker Plant (610-759-4540), Nazareth; Dietrich’s Meats (610-756-6344), Krumsville; and Wessner’s (610-298-2342), New Tripoli.
Bob Danenhower of Bob’s Taxidermy reminds successful hunters to keep their deer or bear carcass’s cold and dry as he’s seen too many where the meat spoiled because they weren’t properly cared for.
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.