A new report from the National Deer Association shows that more mature antlered deer are being taken
While the Pennsylvania Game Commission has not yet issued their annual deer harvest report for the recent deer hunting seasons, the National Deer Association (NDA), a non-profit deer conservation group that leads efforts to ensure the future of wild deer, wildlife habitat and hunting, has issued an interesting national report.
NDA’s study reveals that deer hunters in the United States took more adult and mature bucks in the 2019-20 hunting season than ever reported. This is based on a near-record buck harvest of 2.9 million and a record 39% of those bucks estimated to be 3? years or older. Their 2021 Deer Report is a recent and comprehensive update on the status of deer populations and deer hunting.
Says Ki Adams, NDA’s Chief Conservation Officer, “Hunters now shoot far more bucks that are at least 3? years old than 1? years. This is very different from hunting seasons a decade or two ago.”
Those statistics seem to be true for Pennsylvania since Gary Alt, PGC deer biologist at the time, instituted statewide antler restrictions. At the time, Alt took a lot of criticism for doing this, but in retrospect, his plan is showing success as indicated in NDA’s report.
The report goes on to say the steadily climbing percentage of 3?-and-older bucks in the harvest is the result of steadily declining pressure nationwide on yearling bucks (1? years old). Only 28% of the 2019 antlered buck harvest was yearlings, the lowest rate ever reported. The total buck harvest of 2,885,991 was only 2.5% down from the record buck harvest of 2017. As a region, the Northeast bucked this trend, increasing its buck harvest 4% over the 2018 season.
NDA’s deer report covers data for the 2019-20 hunting season, the most recent season with complete harvest data available from all major deer states.
Nationally, the antlerless harvest (which includes does and buck fawns) declined 1% from the previous season to 2,864,698 and for the third year in a row was lower than the antlered buck harvest. Modern antlerless harvests first surpassed the buck harvest in the 1999 season and remained higher until 2017.
The antlerless harvest has now declined 12% in the decade from 2009 to 2019. This decline was felt most sharply in the Midwest, where the decline over that period was 27%. Long-term reductions in buck and antlerless harvests have many hunters concerned, and for good reason. Harvest declines of 20 to 50% are very noticeable, and state wildlife agencies and legislators hear the brunt of this frustration from hunters. Deer management is in a very different period today than a decade ago, says the NDA, and how closely legislators, wildlife agencies and hunters work together will dictate our future deer management successes.
Among other facts to be found in the new Deer Report:
* 64% of deer taken in the 2019-20 season were killed with a firearm compared to 25% with archery equipment and 10% with a muzzleloader.
* New Jersey had the highest percentage of deer harvest with archery equipment at 63%, Rhode Island was highest with muzzleloaders at 48%, and Idaho was highest in rifle/shotgun deer harvest with 94%
* Texas had the highest total buck harvest at 460,242.
* Michigan killed the most bucks per square mile at 3.7.
* Mississippi killed the most bucks per 100 hunters at 70.
NDA’s 2021 Deer Report is available for free download at this link: https://www.deerassociation.com/2021-deer-report/
With the recent cold nights we’ve had, ice fishing has finally kicked off, but mainly on the Pocono Mountain area lakes and ponds.
According to Willie from Willie’s Bait & Tackle in Cementon, most of his customers are hitting Promised Land Lake where there’s about five inches of ice, especially at Pickerel Point where some crappies and bluegills are being pulled up. On Promised Land Lower Lake, ice anglers are nailing trout that were stocked there.
Elsewhere, Willie said Mud Pond, off Route 402, did have five inches of ice as did Lake Minisink. Both were producing panfish mostly on waxworms and fathead minnows. As for Leaser Lake, it held skim ice mainly in the coves.
Mike, at Mike’s Bait & Tackle in Nazareth, also reports Promised Land Upper Lake was fishing good for nice bluegills, crappie and perch, mostly all on waxworms. The lake had 6-7 inches of ice depending on what part of the lake you were on. The Lower Lake there was good, but you have to be right on them according to Mikes’ customers who fished there last week.
Minisink Lake was iffy with five inches of ice at one section that diminishes to three inches elsewhere. Certainly not safe to fish. Gouldsboro Lake was producing some trout and pickerel and Tobyhanna Lake predominately gave up panfish. Brady’s Lake was yielding mostly little dinks but the action seemed better by the island.
For veteran and even novice ice anglers, the folks at Frabill, who specialize in ice fishing equipment, offers these tips for more productive days on the ice.
Playing the odds they say, is a tip all the pro ice anglers speak about in one way or another. This also coincides with the mobility tip.
Typically, anglers will start in shallow water in the morning and move deeper throughout the day. This is a reliable method but can have its disadvantages as well. When every ice angler in the area is drilling holes up shallow where the fish have already staged, the odds of spooking them to deeper water increases. And vice versa, as the day extends and anglers are chasing the fish to deeper water they may also be moving them back to shallow water where there is less pressure.
A key to this thought is to stay stealthy, don't move when they move. Stay a step ahead of them and be patient as they will come to you, say the Frabill pros. Be strategic when picking your locations and plan for the entire day of fishing. You may start the day in 10'-15' foot of water in the morning, but slip over to deeper water (30') close by. Staying mobile is the key, suggests Frabill, as it will only take a few minutes to get back to other spots for when the conditions are right.
Frabill believes ice fishing is rapidly growing due to the relatively low cost of entry and the ability to involve the entire family for a great day spent outdoors during the winter.
As most big game hunting seasons are over, small game species are still available for upland hunters and continues until Feb. 27.
Among the group that includes pheasant, rabbit, quail (good luck finding those) and squirrel, the latter is the most abundant because they live longer and are the least hunted small game animal. Yet they make delightful table fare as their meat is mild and a tad sweet. Perhaps this is because of their diet of nuts, sunflower seeds and peanut hearts from bird feeders, flower bulbs (I lost all my Holland tulips to them) and bark from bushes in the winter when there’s deep snow on the ground that prevents them from finding their buried nuts.
If you haven’t tried squirrel be it grilled, creamed or in pot pie, they’re all good ways to prepare them. My favorite is creamed and the recipe I use is from long-time fellow outdoor writer Sylvia Bashline and her Savory Game Cookbook. Her Creamed Squirrel recipe is as follows:
Three skinned squirrels cut into pieces
Prepare flour and season with salt & pepper
One-quarter cup cooking oil (I use peanut oil)
One chopped onion
Half cup chopped mushrooms
One cup dry white wine
Half teaspoon thyme
One tablespoon chopped parsley
One cup light cream
Quick Mixing flour
Roll the squirrel pieces in the flour mixture. Heat cooking oil in a large heavy skillet and fry squirrel pieces on all sides until brown. Remove the pieces from the pan. In the same pan, fry onions and mushrooms over medium-high heat for five minutes, then return squirrel pieces to the skillet. Add wine, thyme and parsley to the pan while mixing well, then cover and simmer until squirrel is tender for one to one-and-a-half hours. Add water to the pan if necessary. Remove squirrel pieces from the pan and cool. (Sylvia said the above can be completed an hour before dinner.)
Remove the meat from the bones if you haven’t already. Add enough water to a pan to make one cup. Add cream to the pan and bring to a boil. If the liquid is too thin, add a little flour and stir to thicken. Add pieces of meat, heat and serve over toast or hot biscuits. Garnish with parsley and enjoy. This can serve four or five.
Most squirrel hunters use a .22 rifle opposed to a shotgun for squirrels. The latter would require the chore of picking out spent shot from the meat. If missing one tiny BB, it could mean a trip to the dentist for a cracked filling or chipped tooth.
CCI, the popular ammo company, recently came out with a Quiet-22LR rimfire cartridge that is ideal for squirrel hunting in that it offers less noise to spook or scare other squirrels. This 40-grain round nose has a low velocity of 710fps and generates 75 percent less perceived noise than a standard .22LR round, says CCI. They’re also ideal for target shooting and retail for $4.99 for a box of 50 through CCI’s online store.
Instead of watching old movies of the 40s and 50s, that have been continuously playing on most cable channels of late, crank up your computer or iPad and check out the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s (PGC) live streaming Eagle Cam.
A new season of live-streamed action from a bald-eagle nest near Codorus State Park in Hanover, Pa. is underway, says the PGC. The agency announced its popular Eagle Cam, a joint project with partners HDOnTap and Comcast Business, has returned.
The Hanover cam is one of two bald-eagle livestreams the Game Commission, HDOnTap and Comcast Business, are planning this nesting season. No date has been selected for the launch of the Farm Country Eagle Cam.
This is the seventh year for the 24-7 livestream at the Hanover nest. HDOnTap Co-Founder Tiffany Sears said the company is excited the action has begun.
"This is one of our most popular live cameras,” Sears said. "Since 2015, viewers have enjoyed ?over 40 million hours of 24-7, live HD video? and audio from the nest, as well as daily time-lapse clips on screens worldwide.”
The last two seasons have been tough ones for the eagles at the Hanover nest. No chicks have hatched in either. Last season, viewers watched patiently as the pair of adult eagles took turns incubating their clutch of two eggs, but by late March, the eggs still hadn’t hatched and were deemed unviable. Eagle-lovers everywhere are hoping this year will be different.
Comcast Business has generously signed on for another year to provide the Internet connectivity for both Eagle Cam livestreams. The company is proud to again partner with HDOnTap to provide fast, reliable and secure Internet service that will enable nature enthusiasts to continue watching and learning about these amazing bald eagles,” said Aaron Mimran, Vice President of Comcast Business for the company’s Keystone Region.
“HDOnTap is also thrilled to be working again with Raptor Biologist, Zoey Greenberg, on the Hanover Bald Eagle Blog, to help share with viewers educational information, photos and video highlights pertaining to Bald Eagles and specifically the events at the Hanover nest,” says Tiffany Sears. The blog can be found at: https://hdontap.com/index.php/articles/type/category/hanover_eagle_updates. ?
The Hanover, Pa. livestream can be found at www.pgc.pa.gov and on HDOnTap’s website, where it can be found on HDOnTap’s. Live Hanover Bald Eagles. .
“The resurgence of bald eagles in Pennsylvania represents one of the greatest conservation success stories in the country,” said Steve Smith, director of the Game Commission’s Bureau of Information and Education. “It’s a product of decades of planning and hard work by Game Commission staff. We are excited for this opportunity to once again bring this pair into homes and schools across the country through the livestream.”
Since local fishing action is dead, at least until ice fishing begins, you may want to take a ride to North New Jersey shore points for some big fish action be it from the surf or charter boats. Here are the latest reports from On the Water Magazine for that area of the Jersey shore:
Rick Hebert, at Tackle World in Rochelle Park, said stripers were still biting in Raritan Bay on Ava’s and on the troll. Black fishing has been a struggle with good fishing one day, then tough going for the next two or three. He’s been getting better reports from the southern spots. Offshore sea bass trips are seeing more porgies than sea bass, he added.
Capt. Phil Sciortino, at the Tackle Box, said the boats continue to do well with bass in the bay with some fish on the beach at Sandy Hook. He also reported some bigger fish, up to 50 pounds, caught farther to the east. He’s getting better tog fishing reports.
Mike Pinto, at Giglio’s Bait and Tackle in Sea Bright, said it’s been quiet there but he did hear of bass on the beach at Sandy Hook.
Mike Gleason, at Tak Waterman in Long Branch, said anglers are still getting bass in the surf there. Short bass are hitting sand eel imitations and there are peanut bunker mixed in with the sand eels. There were small bass chasing peanut bunker in the Bradley Beach surf last week and were hitting 4-inch Storm Shad lures.
Bob Matthews, at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar, said it was a good week for surf fishing in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Any sand eel imitation with a teaser was working, with most of the fish in the 24-28-inch range with a few smaller ones mixed in. Tsunami sand eels are a shop favorite. Matthews reported better winter flounder fishing in the Shark River over the past few days. One angler had eight fish to 3 pounds, keeping only two.
Capt. Pete Sykes, of Parker Pete’s Sportfishing out of Belmar, reported excellent striper fishing on Monday and Tuesday of last week on jigs and on the troll. He believes bass will be around after the storm. Black fishing, however, has been hit-or-miss. The dogfish have been a problem and if they’re around, the tog are not.
Max Kristiansen, at the Reel Seat in Brielle, said bass in the surf is the best game in town right now with the better fishing south of the Manasquan Inlet. Black fishing has been pretty inconsistent as some days are better than others.
Jason Szabo, at Fishermen’s Supply in Point Pleasant Beach, said the Manasquan River is still giving up a lot of small bass. Shad bodies at the bridges are working for them. He added that the surf has been good for shorts and keepers on jigs, but rigs were working as well.
Capt. Kenny Namowitz, on the Mimi VI out of Point Pleasant Beach, was on the tog grounds on Monday and reported it was hard but productive fishing as several anglers got their limits.
Frank Giacalone, at Gabriel Tackle Co. in Brick, reported the blackfish bite has been decent out in the ocean, and is holding up in the Point Pleasant Canal. Striper fishing off the beach remains good with Ava’s and teasers. There’s also lots of peanut bunker in the wash.
Pete Kupper, at Charlie’s Bait and Tackle in Normandy Beach, said stripers were biting on the beach there right up until the wind started blowing. Bill Hurley Sand Eels have been the most popular bait. There are also some winter flounder in the bay by the Mantoloking Bridge.
Scott, at Grumpy’s Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park, said the bass fishing was red hot last Tuesday morning with loads of fish caught off the beach. Surf fishing was also good over the weekend. The bite was mainly on sand eel imitations but Mag Darters, SP Minnows and gliders also caught fish. Most of the fish were shorts, but there were some 30-inch stripers in the mix.
John Bushell, at Betty and Nick’s Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park, said stripers are still in the surf and hitting sand eels.
If you haven’t filled your buck or doe harvest tags during the past deer hunting seasons, you’ll get another opportunity during the post-Christmas deer season. But that’s provided you hunt with archery or flintlock muzzleloader, or firearms in selected counties.
The archery and flintlock deer hunting season for both antlered and antlerless deer re-opens Dec. 26 and runs until Jan. 18 statewide. For those hunting in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, the season continues to Jan. 23.
If you have remaining antlerless tags, the extended firearms season runs Dec. 23 – Jan 23 in Allegheny, Bucks, Chester and Philadelphia counties.
And for you upland hunters, the Pennsylvania Game Commission will hold a late season pheasant stocking. Both male and female pheasants will be stocked on Dec. 22 and 23 and the birds may be hunted after stocking but not on Christmas day. The season will reopen on Dec. 26. The only exception to this is there’s no hunting in the state’s two Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas.
Keep in mind that even though hunters may hunt immediately after the pheasants are released, and if encountering a stocking truck, the PGC reminds hunters that the area around the truck is established as a safety zone hence it’s unlawful to discharge a firearm within 150 yards of a PGC vehicle if its occupants are releasing pheasants.
According to the PGC, more than 218,000 pheasants are allocated for this statewide late season release. To learn about what tracts are being stocked visit the interactive stocking map and pheasant-allocation breakdowns at www.pgc.pa.gov.
As a reminder, the PGC says that except for senior lifetime license-buyers who bought their lifetime hunting or combination licenses prior to May 13, 2017, hunters need a pheasant permit in addition to their general hunting license. For adults and non-exempted senior hunters, the permit costs $26.90. For junior hunters and mentored permit holders under 17, the permit is free.
When going afield, all safety and regulations apply such as wearing 250 square inches of fluorescent orange. That, plus the pheasant daily limit is two with a possession limit of six.
With snow on the ground, these late season hunts make for a great time to be afield and in the woods.
Well it won’t be long before anglers will be able to walk on water…. for ice fishing that is.
Our tackle shop reporters have not heard of any ice action which, despite cold temperatures, having 10 inches or more of snow atop the ice merely provides an insulation that prevents ice from forming.
We’ll keep you posted when ice fishing action kicks off, most likely on Pocono Mountain waters before local waters like Leaser Lake and Ontelaunee Reservoir.
With the light coating of snow we received this week, it was the incentive for skiers and snowboarders to get their gear in shape for the skiing/boarding/riding season.
However, with the coronavirus problem, snow lovers will have to adjust to new rules and procedures for the season. For one, Bear Creek Resort outside of Macungie has turned to all-online ticket sales and passes that will be for date-specific use according to Arialle Hess, Bear Creek Marketing Manager. The purpose is to control the number of guests. In addition, the resort is asking guests to leave their extra gear in their car instead of in the lodge. And of course, masks and social distancing is needed while in the lodges and elsewhere. In addition, guests must complete ski/board rentals and sign waivers on-line through the resorts new app.
Hess mentioned that they are adding food trucks for guests to have food outside in an added effort to maintain social distancing.
As for any changes or additions to the mountain itself, Hess said they extended their tubing run to the top of the tubing slope for a more exciting run down the mountain.
Up at Blue Mountain Resort in Palmerton, they too have incorporated Covid precautions in several ways, and implemented them yesterday their first day of operation.
According to Ashley Seier, marketing manager, a limited number of tickets will be available to purchase online and in advance of your arrival. The resort doesn’t expect walk-up tickets to be available during the winter season. Some single day tickets may be available for same-day purchase online, however those quantities are limited.
Blue Mountain plans to offer off-hill activities including Hike N Tube, Plunge, Aquatic Centre, Woodview Mountaintop Skating and Snowshoeing. Seier notes that these activities are subject to health mandates and are weather and conditions permitting.
Seier added that they plan to offer night skiing for the 2020-21 season and is scheduled to start Thursday, December 17, 2020, of course weather conditions permitting.
To manage on-hill capacity, priority access will be given to Season Passholders (Ikon, Ikon Base and 5x7) and guests that have purchased a lift ticket online, in advance. And not unexpectedly, face masks and coverings are required while in the lift line and on the chairlifts. Blue Mountain also recommends guests wear a face mask/covering while on-hill.
Prior to the opener, and on 6-person chairlifts, family, or social bubbles can load together on the same chair. On 4-person and triple chairs, family or social bubbles will be loaded together. In all other instances, 4-person and triple chairlifts will load with one rider. Guests will also be sorted to ensure adequate distancing on chairs. Plus, lift loading procedures will be subject to Public Health legislation and may change without notice.
Seier said that when they open, they’ll open as many runs as they can. Typically, that includes the Silver Bullet chair first, along with one of the Magic Carpet beginner areas, Memory Lane, Tranquility and Smart Alec that are always the first top-to-bottom trails to open. Depending on conditions, Blue might have all three open, or perhaps only one or two.
Bear Creek is hoping to open Dec. 21. And according to channel 69 News Weather, we may get some appreciable snow on Wednesday, Dec. 16.
Otherwise, all we need is colder weather so the resorts can make lots of snow with any real snow adding an extra touch of white over the mountain resorts.
If you’re an avid birder, then this is your time of year to apply your birding expertise.
The National Audubon Society’s (NAS) 121st annual Christmas Bird Count gets underway from Dec. 14 to January 5.
For those new to the count, it’s an early-winter bird census where thousands of volunteers across the U.S., Canada, and many countries in the Western Hemisphere, go out over a 24-hour period on one calendar day to count birds in their area. According to the NAS, your local count will occur on one day between those dates. And you may participate in as many counts as you wish.
So how does the count work? NAS says there is a specific method to the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). All participants must make arrangements to participate in advance with the circle compiler within an established circle, but anyone can participate. To register, check the NAS website then click on the area of their map to see who is the count compiler. In our area it’s Laurie Goodrich at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. She can be reached at email@example.com. If she’s not within your area, she could point you to another compiler.
Each count takes place in an established 15-mile wide diameter circle, and is organized by a count compiler. Count volunteers follow specific routes through a designated 15-mile diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s not just a species tally as all birds are counted, and it gives an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day.
And if you’re a beginning birder, you’ll be able to join a group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher.
If your home is within the boundaries of a CBC circle, then you can stay at home and report the birds that visit your feeder on count day as long as you’ve made prior arrangements with the count compiler.
Some birders may wonder if they can do their own CBC and send in their data. NAS says no since each CBC is a real census, and since the 15-mile diameter circle contains a lot of area to be covered, single-observer counts (except in unusual circumstances) cannot be allowed.
But there is an alternative. Birders can get involved in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) organized by Audubon along with Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It takes place President’s Day weekend each February wherein you can count the birds each day in your backyard/community and then enter the results online.
Local goose hunters get their third of fourth goose hunting season when it re-opens Dec. 14 – Jan. 16. The last segment runs Jan. 29 – Feb. 20.
Since many farmers have harvested their corn and soybean fields, geese are feasting on corn and bean remnants that the harvesting machines dropped. As of last week, two large flocks of geese were hitting the cornfields off Mauch Chunk Road in South Whitehall, the land owned by GES Chemicals (Trojan Powder Company for us old timers). Smaller flocks have also been spotted in fields in Upper and Lower Macungie Townships and several farms near Leaser Lake.
And it won’t be long before snow geese show up. A lot of farmers are growing winter wheat which the snows love and can decimate a small field in short time. Look for many of them to overnight on a quarry in Fogelsville and one on Route 329 on the outskirts of Northampton.
PA GOV. WOLF VETOES FIREARMS/AMMO BILLS
From the NRA/ILA comes word that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a pair of pro-Second Amendment bills that had passed both chambers of the Legislature with solid support. The move was not unexpected, given that the anti-gun Governor has been unilaterally demonstrating his disdain for freedom and liberty for months.
Nevertheless, we want to thank the legislators who took a bold stand for the rights of Pennsylvanians. House Bill 2440 and House Bill 1747 had both passed the Senate in November on votes of 29-20 after easily clearing the House earlier this Fall. These bills were written to protect constitutionally guaranteed rights during declared states of emergencies.
House Bill 2440, by Rep. Bill Kortz, would have designated shooting ranges, sportsman clubs, hunting facilities and business relating to the sale or production of firearms and ammunition as life-sustaining. House Bill 1747, by Rep. Matthew Dowling, would have prevented state and local governments from suspending or limiting the sale, dispensing, or transportation of firearms during a declared emergency. It also would have removed the carry prohibitions that exist with exemptions.
COVID-19, and the closures occurring across much of the country, have forced a reexamination of statutes in many states with regard to declared states of emergency.
Citizens are guaranteed basic fundamental rights that should never be infringed, particularly in these tumultuous times. We have witnessed firsthand the inability of government to protect people, and it is absolutely essential that citizens be able to provide for their own self-defense, especially during a declared state of emergency. While Gov. Wolf's veto is disappointing, NRA will continue to fight for the rights of all Pennsylvanians.
Pennsylvania’s annual firearms deer hunting season gets underway Saturday, Nov. 28 instead of the traditional Monday opener. And as a first, the opener is followed by a Sunday (Nov. 29) deer hunting opportunity. The season then continues from Nov. 30 – Dec. 12.
Aside from the first Sunday firearms hunt, there has been some added changes. For hunters in 10 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs), they will have concurrent antlered/antlerless hunting throughout the 14-day season. But that’s not all.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), the firearms season has a new twist in that a regulatory change now allows hunters to harvest a second deer before tagging the first as has been required. Provided of course hunters have the appropriate harvest tags and no attempt is made to move the deer before it’s tagged.
During the 2019-2020 season, hunters took 389,431 deer, the highest overall deer harvest in 15 years. This was the second highest since the 2004-05 seasons when 409,320 were taken.
The 2019-20 statewide buck harvest of 163,240 saw a 10-percent increase in the number of bucks taken over the 2018-19 season when 147,750 bucks were taken.
“The size and quality of bucks in Penn’s Woods right now, probably hasn’t been duplicated in the Commonwealth in over 150 years,” noted PGC Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “The number of record book bucks taken is incredible. In fact, it’s beginning to look like no rack sitting atop record-book listings in unapproachable.” You won’t believe what’s running around Penn’s Woods,” he concluded.
Surprisingly, the PGC made no mention of former deer biologist Gary Alt’s plan to institute a point restriction in areas of the state. Alt came under heavy criticism after this move. But judging what Burhans has said, it seems Alt’s plan back then has now reaped bigger racks on Pennsy bucks.
Insofar as bucks are concerned, the PGC says hunters continue to experience antlered-buck harvest-success levels comparable to historic highs in the late 1990’s and early 2000s. The agency notes that in recent years, about 22 percent of all hunters have harvested an antlered deer, and they look for this trend to continue.
Likewise, the 2019-20 antlerless deer harvest was 226,191 which included 10,461 taken with CWD Deer Management Assistance Program permits. This was similar to the 2018-19 overall antlerless deer harvest of 226,940. In 2017-18 seasons, the antlerless harvest was 203,409.
Pennsylvania’s buck harvest increased for three consecutive years until the 2018-19 firearms season’s opener when heavy rain kept many hunters home. But last season, there was an uptick in buck harvest numbers. It also caused the percentage of 2.5-year old bucks being taken. During the 2019-20 seasons, 2.5-year old and older bucks comprised 66 percent of the buck harvest, up from 64 percent in the 2018-19 seasons. Over the previous four years, PGC records indicate the percentage of 2.5-year old and older bucks taken was between 56 and 59 percent.
The 10 WMUs where hunters can take both antlerless and antlered deer are 2B, 2C, 2D, 2E, 4A, 4B, 4D, 5A, 5C and 5D. In 1A, 1B, 2A, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4C and 5B, a seven-day antlered deer season will be followed by a seven-day concurrent season.
As for field conditions, the PGC notes that drought and late-spring frosts impacted fall foods in some areas of Pennsylvania. Warmer-than-seasonal temperatures this fall made grazing grass available in many places. Soft and hard mast crops have been remarkably plentiful in many areas, but spotty in others according to PGC field reports.
BEAR HARVEST REPORTS
Those looking to track Pennsylvania’s 2020 bear harvest can find harvest totals, breakdowns of harvests by county and season, and a list of the 10 heaviest bears harvested so far by visiting the Game Commission’s website.
Go to www.pgc.pa.gov, click on the Black Bear Harvest link under “Quick Clicks,” then click on the map under “Bear Check Station Data.” The map is updated continually as hunters check their bears and the records are entered into the database. Hunters already have taken nearly 2,000 bears this season.
The four-day statewide bear season runs Saturday, Nov. 21 through Tuesday, Nov. 24. The season includes a day of Sunday hunting – Sunday, Nov. 22. Except for foxes, coyotes and crows, which long have been hunted on Sundays within open seasons in Pennsylvania, only bears may be hunted on Sunday, Nov. 22, and hunters must possess a bear license in addition to a general license to hunt bears.
Those who harvest bears during the four-day statewide season are required within 24 hours to take their bears to a Game Commission check station. Due to COVID-19 protocols, public access to check stations will be limited this year, and only successful hunters and members of their hunting party will be allowed in the checking area.
Bear harvest results also will not be reported at check stations, but the real-time harvest map makes it easy for anyone to stay up to date.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), the agency said hunters have a chance to break last year’s record bear harvest of 4,653 when the rifle bear season opens Nov. 21 with the first (of three) Sunday hunt on Nov. 22.
The archery season offered the first Sunday hunt on Nov. 15 and after this Sunday, Nov. 29 will be the final Sunday big-game opportunity. For those hunting no private property on these Sundays, the PGC requires hunters carry written permission from the landowner with the owners contact information and phone number. The purpose, says the PGC, is if a game warden needs to check the validity of a permission slip.
As for the rifle bear season that runs until Nov. 24, the PGC sold a record 202,043 bear hunting licenses this year, an 18 percent increase over last year.
Hunters will be pursuing a bear population of approximately 20,000, of which hunters removed 20-25 percent of this number last year says the PGC.
Bears have become common throughout the state and especially the Pocono Mountain region. Some swim over the Delaware River to Pennsylvania from New Jersey. Bears have been spotted at Leaser Lake, the Orefield area even one in Lehigh Parkway in late summer.
According to Tom Keller, PGC Game Mammals Section Supervisor, “Bears are incredibly adaptable as they can fit in almost anywhere that offers them cover and reliable food sources. It’s why bears are found in more places in Pennsylvania than any time in PGC existence.”
Last year, bears were taken in 58 of 67 Pennsylvania counties, and 22 of 23 state’s Wildlife Management Units (WMUs). And the largest bear during the 2019 seasons was an 813-pound male taken with a rifle on opening day in Smithfield Township, Monroe County.
Lycoming County experienced the top harvest of 284 bears followed by Clinton and Tioga, both with 267. Other top counties included Huntingdon, 180; Potter, 174; Luzerne, 163; Bedford, 156; Centre, 146; and Warren, 146.
Interestingly, 561 bears were harvested during the archery season alone with 1,340 taken during the concurrent new muzzleloader and special firearms seasons and the new muzzleloader season had an unexpected harvest of 1,000 bears.
Hunters get an extra opportunity during the Extended bear seasons that run in WMU’s 1B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 5A from Nov. 30-Dec. 5, and in WMU’s 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D from Nov. 30–Dec. 12.
As for the required bear check stations, the PGC has changed two that are not listed in the Hunting/Trapping Digest that comes with every hunting license purchased. The changes are as follows: In Lycoming County the check station is now at PGC’s Northcentral Regional Office at 1566 South Route 44 Highway, Jersey Shore, PA, 17740. The other will be at the Southcentral Region Office at 8677 William Penn Highway, Huntingdon, PA. 16652.
For real-time bear harvest totals check www.pgc.pa.gov. Then select “Black Bear Harvest” under “Quick Clicks” on the homepage to link to the totals and harvest maps.
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.