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Weather adversely affects opening day of deer hunting season

Bob Frye
| Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, 10:12 p.m.
Kevin J. Lamb, 59, of Glenshaw takes aim while hunting in the state game lands off Mingo Road in Wexford on the opening day of Pennsylvania’s firearms deer season, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014.
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Kevin J. Lamb, 59, of Glenshaw takes aim while hunting in the state game lands off Mingo Road in Wexford on the opening day of Pennsylvania’s firearms deer season, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014.

Tom Ferguson was late, but optimistic.

It was a little after noon Monday when the Springdale man entered the woods on game land 203 in Allegheny County. It was opening day of Pennsylvania's firearms deer season, when approximately 750,000 hunters take to the woods in hopes of killing a whitetail.

Many were in the woods before dawn. Ferguson couldn't be among them, but he'd seen a very large deer in his spot a few weeks before and was hoping to run into him again.

“I've been coming up here every week for four weeks, scouting. And I saw a big 10-point up here then,” Ferguson said.

“I'm hoping nobody got him already and that he'll circle back.”

If he found that deer, he was likely in the minority on an opener when rainy, foggy weather combined to send a lot of hunters home early and empty- handed.

“It was pretty slow,” said Jason Farabaugh, a wildlife conservation officer for the Pennsylvania Game Commission in Fayette and Westmoreland counties. “The fog was up and down all day. There were times when you could only see 20 yards. It was pretty miserable.”

That impacted participation, at least in places.

Chris Bergman, patrolling in Washington and Allegheny counties, said he saw a fair number of hunters early, while officer Matt Kramer in Beaver County said hunter pressure was pretty good.

However, neither reported seeing many deer taken.

Meanwhile, conservation officer Matt Lucas in southern Westmoreland County said hunters numbers seemed down compared to past years.

Pretty much everywhere, a lot of hunters seemed to leave the woods early as temperatures dropped from the mid-50s to the mid-30s.

“It's hard to dress for that kind of change in the weather. Then, if you add some rain on top of that so that everyone's wet, it's tough,” said Armstrong County conservation officer Rod Burns.

That led to a first-day kill that he called — in his area anyway — “the least amount of deer I've ever seen taken on a first day.”

The situation was similar in southern Allegheny County, according to conservation officer Gary Fujak. His deputies had checked some deer, including a couple of junior hunters who had taken their first buck.

“But it was a tough one today,” Fujak said.

That foiled Rich Breymeier's plans. The Ross Township man arrived at game land 203 in Allegheny County well before dawn, with the idea of getting into his spot and waiting for other hunters to walk around and push deer to him.

But he saw just one doe, he said.

“I thought there would be crowds all around at daybreak, but not really. I saw a couple of guys doing laps, so I thought I'd stay put and let them drive deer, but that was it.”

Deer season continues through Dec. 13, with antlerless deer becoming legal statewide Saturday. That's always a busy time, Lucas said.

“We'll see a lot of hunters back then. We always get a heavy push,” Lucas said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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