Plentiful deer season expected in region
The latest change in what has been a fall's worth of them comes into play Monday.
The state hosted its first-ever youth rabbit hunt this year. Turkey season was shorter this fall than last. Bear season was still three days long, but opened on a Saturday.
Tomorrow, the state's firearms deer season opens and hunters will, at least in places, be dealing with new rules.
In most of the state in recent years, deer season has allowed for concurrent buck and doe hunting. Hunters with the right tags could shoot deer of either sex on all 12 days of the season.
The exceptions were wildlife management units 2D, 2G, 3C and 4B. There, hunters were limited to shooting bucks on the first five days of the season. Antlerless deer were fair game for seven days, from the first Saturday through season's end.
This fall, four more units - 2C, 2E, 4D and 4E - will feature those same rules.
The change hasn't done what it was intended to do scientifically. In instituting the new season structure in the first four units, Pennsylvania Game Commissioners said the goal was to see if hunters could kill as many deer as previously in fewer days. That has not happened.
Still, Gary Toward, a wildlife conservation officer for the commission in Armstrong County, said many of the hunters to whom he's spoken like the rules.
"Some people just haven't been seeing the deer like they used to. They think delaying the antlerless season is going to help them some," Toward said.
The makeup of the season aside, one thing seems sure: southwestern Pennsylvania will likely again lead the state in deer harvest. All indications are that there are good numbers of deer - some of them big -- to be found locally.
An example is what conservation officer cadet Greg Graham has seen while working in Greene County. He saw two trophy deer taken in archery season, he noted.
"Both green scored at more than 170 inches," he said. "Since being assigned here, I have seen lots of deer, including quite a few that met the area's antler restrictions. Deer season should treat the dedicated hunter well."
Hunters have been seeing big deer in Washington County, too, added conservation officer Dan Sitler, especially since the onset of cooler weather.
Hunters lucky enough to bag a whitetail should find them to be healthy, said Allegheny County conservation officer Gary Fujak. This year's abundant acorn crop and bounty of other foods has benefitted deer, he said.
"I've been talking to my deer processors and they are all telling me the deer they've seen have been very healthy and fat. I've heard of multiple bucks being taken that weighed in excess of 200 pounds," Fujak said. "I know of one myself that weighed 224 pounds, and that was field dressed.
"My forecast is the deer herd seems very healthy and hunters should be satisfied with what they see."
The food conditions that have benefitted deer locally aren't equally widespread across the state, though, warned Carl Roe, the commission's executive director.
"Our fall food survey suggests wildlife food abundance is quite variable this year. Some areas have good acorn crops; others have few or no acorns," Roe said.
Hunters, who have scouted out where the food is and isn't, previously had the best chance to find deer, he said.
But hope springs eternal, especially on the night before opening day, and most people seem optimistic about the upcoming season, Toward said.
"The guys I've talked to have been seeing quite a few nice bucks lately, so I think they're pretty excited," he said.
A look at the season
Deer season will open with a five-day, antlered deer-only season in wildlife management units 2C, 2D, 2E, 2G, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E from Nov. 29 to Dec. 3. Seven days of concurrent bucks and doe hunting follow from Dec. 4 to 11
- Deer season in all other units will allow buck and doe hunting concurrently from Nov. 29 to Dec. 11.
- Hunters can take one buck a year, and one antlerless deer for each doe license in their possession.
- Hunters must wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined at all times while afield.
- All hunters who take a deer must fill out their harvest tag and attach it to the deer's ear before moving the carcass. The tag can be secured to the base of the ear with a string drawn very tightly, if the hunter plans to have the deer mounted.
- All hunters who take a deer must report it to the commission, either using the report card issued with their hunting digest or on-line at .
Courtesy PA Game Commission