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Deer season off to slow start

| Monday, Nov. 26, 2012, 8:12 p.m.
Wayne Ridout of Butler walks through the State Game Lands in Wexford, on the first day of deer hunting season, Monday, November 26, 2012. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review

Monday wasn't the worst day Dave Arnold of McCandless Township has ever had on state game land 203 near Wexford.

Hunting there last October, he blew out his knee, an injury that kept him off work for close to a year. He was back in the woods Monday, though, for opening day of Pennsylvania's statewide firearms deer season.

That didn't pay off immediately — he had yet to see a deer by lunchtime — but he was hopeful.

“I've almost always seen does when I've hunted here, but I never had the tags to take them. This year I have two, so I'm hoping to fill them,” Arnold said.

He wasn't alone in not downing a deer early.

Wayne Ridout of Butler was also hunting 203, and he hadn't seen a deer by midday either. He suspected a lack of hunters had something to do with that.

“Over the last couple of years, whenever I came out here there were always a lot of guys. You'd see them just walking the trails,” Ridout said. “They're not out this year.

“I think we need more guys out stomping around and beating the bushes to move the deer. They're not going to move around too much on their own.”

Things were similarly slow around the rest of the region, according to reports from hunters and wildlife conservation officers with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Hunting pressure was reported to be average or less, and the unusually-warm weather appeared to be at fault.

Gary Toward, one of the Game Commission's two conservation officers in Armstrong County, said he'd seen some decent bucks taken, if “not anything anyone was going to be bragging about.” But the weather put a damper on things.

“We were at state game land 247 early, and it was pretty packed, but boy, by 10 o'clock it really started to thin out. I think it got too warm for some guys,” he said.

Matt Kramer, conservation officer in Beaver County, reported similar results.

“I have seen and checked a couple of nice bucks taken by successful hunters, and I saw some youth hunters out, which is always really good,” Kramer said. “But I think perhaps the weather, and a lack of snow, kept the turnout slightly below average.”

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bfrye@tribweb.com or 724-838-5148.

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