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Deer season full of ups and downs

| Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, 9:46 p.m.

Deer season means memories.

Most are good. A few, fueled by greed, are not.

This season was no different, even though — at times and in spots, perhaps because of the unusually warm weather — hunting pressure was lighter than might have been expected.

Randy Pilarcik, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's wildlife conservation officer in southern Butler County, said he and his deputies encountered fewer hunters than in previous years.

“This wasn't for the lack of deer, though,” he said. “On a recent night patrol, I saw more than 100 deer in adjacent fields while driving along the district roadways.”

Some hunters, including young ones, found deer.

Fifteen-year-old Luke Benzinger was hunting with his dad, Joe, near their home in Trafford when he shot an antlerless deer on the season's first Saturday. It was his first deer.

Mike Sweeney Jr. of North Huntingdon, a junior at Norwin High School, bagged a 5-point in Armstrong County, while a brother-sister team combined to get two bucks. Devin Seaholm, 14, of Washington Township, killed a 12-point with a 19-inch spread. A day later, his 16-year-old sister, Alexandra, got an 8-point.

A number of children in the woods via the mentored youth program, which lets children younger than 12 hunt so long as they are accompanied by an adult, also got deer.

Ten-year-old Jacob Miller of Ruffsdale shot an 8-point buck while in a treestand with his dad, Joe, and Sabrina Wolfe got an 8-point in Westmoreland County.

Probably one of the youngest hunters to get a deer, though, was 6-year-old Dominic Nelson. The South Butler Primary School kindergartener from Cabot was hunting in the Freeport area with his dad, Shawn, when he got a 6-point. He shot it with a 20-gauge shotgun he'd gotten for Christmas last year.

“We're so excited,” said his mother, Sara Nelson. “We're having it mounted because it was his first one.”

Among adults, Brian “Bear” Cerra of White Oak Rod and Gun Club got a 6-point in Hickory Township, Washington County, shooting it at a distance of about “10 feet, no joke.” David Shotts of Tarrs got an 8-point in Clearfield County.

Unfortunately, deer season also brought some mistakes accidents and intentional cheating.

In Mercer County, one hunter fired at a deer estimated to be 650 yards away and, in the process, shot over a road and into a house, said wildlife conservation officer Donald Chaybin. The bullet passed through a living room window and lodged in an interior wall. That hunter has paid for repairs but still faces charges.

Not far away, another bullet entered a home, but the shooter has yet to be identified.

Many cases of hunters using bait were reported from around the region. Typical was what was reported by conservation officer cadet Brian Sheetz, working in northern Indiana County.

“On the first day of the statewide firearms deer season, several citations were filed for unlawful devices and methods where the hunters were using salt blocks as enticements for deer,” he said.

Wildlife management unit 2B also gave up two more black bears during deer season. Hunters were allowed to shoot those in that unit under new rules designed to keep the bear population to a minimum.

One hunter got a bear in Fawn Township, while Derrick Honaker of Elizabeth Township got a 300-pound bear while hunting in Elizabeth.

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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