Monday’s Nov. 26 antlered deer hunting season will have up to a million orange clad hunters invading Penn’s Woods in pursuit of a buck. The season runs until Dec. 8 in most areas of the state.
According to Pennsylvania Game Commission, about 45 percent of the season’s buck harvest was taken on the opener last year. But last season, hunters took more deer on the first Saturday of the season – a first in Pennsylvania’s deer-management history. “These really are two of the best times to be deer hunting,” said Chris Rosenberry, PGC deer and elk biologist. And with snow on the ground, it should make seeing and tracking them easier.
He points out that larger racked (and older) bucks are making up more of the deer harvest with each passing year. Last year, 163,750 bucks were taken, making it the second-largest buck harvest in Pennsylvania since antler restrictions were started in 2002. It was the 10th best all time.
Rosenberry said that in 2017, 57 percent of the antlered buck harvest was made up of bucks 2.5 years old or older. The rest were 1.5 years old. “Older, bigger bucks are making up more of the buck harvest than they have for at least a couple decades. Hunters like the bucks in Pennsylvania today compared to what many of them saw 30 years ago,” Rosenberry boasted.
Bob Danenhower, Orefield-based taxidermist, says he’s been having big bucks come in ever year since he started his business 33 years ago. “In fact, back then when a 130 size buck would come in for mounting, guys from the coal regions would come down to see it as they never before saw one that big,” Danenhower explained.
As for field conditions, the PGC says that precipitation through spring and summer fostered a favorable supply of fall foods. Grazing grass was still green in early November and soft and hard mast crops have been plentiful. Cornfields stood longer this fall than usual and trees held their leaves longer. And deer, they point out, typically key on food sources within good cover, Deer, they explain, won’t leave cornfields until the corn is taken down. So the PGC recommends hunters scout as food sources dry up and hunting pressure can inspire their selection and location.
As a reminder, the agency strongly urges hunters to use a climbing harness if using a climbing, hang-on even ladder tree stands.
Hunters should also remember it’s required to report their harvest within 10 days of harvest. That can be done by sending in a report card that comes with the hunting license, online at www.pgc.pa.org and click on ‘Report a Harvest” button on the home page; or via a phone report by calling 855-724-8681 (855-PAHUNT1). Mentored youth hunters are required to report deer harvests within five days.
It’s also necessary to consider the area you’re hunting may be in a Chronic Wasting Disease county which has special regulations. Check the PGC’s website (www.pgc.pa.gov) to find the specific boundaries.
PGC BUCK CONTEST
If you take a big buck, a special buck or your first buck, the PGC would like to hear from you as they’re sponsoring a “Buck Harvest” contest. The contest is open for archery and firearms season bucks. Photos and information on your buck will be accepted through Dec. 17 by emailing a photo plus name/address/age/hometown, harvest date and county the buck was taken to firstname.lastname@example.org. Winners’ photos will appear on PGC’s Facebook page and each will receive a trail camera.
Steve Meserve of Lewis Fishery in Lambertville, NJ, a commercial shad fishing operation on the Delaware River every spring, reports his final shad tally for the year was 864 shad compared to 1,262 in 2017. Of that total, 88 were bucks, 247 roe and 529 were returned. This compares to 208, 319 and 735 respectively in 2017. This works out to 22 shad per haul compared to 29 in 2017.
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.