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Sports

Sportsmen going hunting ? for deer licenses

Bob Frye
| Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011

New Pennsylvania Game Commission statistics show that hunting license sales peak on two occasions: in early July, when doe licenses go on sale, and on the weekend before opening day of doe season.

The rest of the year• Things are pretty slow.

Between about the third week of July and the end of September, the commission sells roughly 2,000 licenses per day, according statistics from 2009-11. It sees a small bump just before the opening of archery deer season the first weekend in October, but even then, sales don't climb over the 10,000-per-day mark.

Sales then vary from about 2,000 to 5,000 per day over the weeks until Thanksgiving.

And after deer season• Forget it.

The commission sells just the tiniest fraction of its licenses from deer season through the beginning of the next license year in June.

The busy time before the busy time is almost here.

Next Monday will be the most hectic on Pennsylvania's hunting calendar. More than 750,000 hunters will take to the woods for opening day of Pennsylvania's statewide deer season. No other single day sees as many orange-clad sportsmen afield at the same time.

The days between Thanksgiving and the opener will be busy in their own right, though.

According to some never-before-tabulated statistics from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the days right after Thanksgiving represent, by far, the second-busiest period for selling hunting licenses.

Each year, from 2009-11, license sales have rocketed — from fewer than 10,000 per day in June per day to nearly 65,000 per day in the first few days of July — when doe licenses go on sale. Sales decline just as quickly within a matter of days, though. By mid-July, sales are back below 10,000 per day.

Then comes the weekend before deer season.

If things hold true to form, the commission will sell nearly 25,000 licenses per day this coming weekend, as hunters rush to get ready for the opener.

"It's amazing the spike we see," said Joe Neville, director of the commission's information and education bureau. "It's driven by hunters who find out at the last minute that they can get the day off, or who find a place to go or who get invited to camp. It's a tremendous bump."

Bill Gorol experiences it firsthand. Manager of Woodland's Edge Sporting Goods, the Delmont shop owned by his wife Terri, he said the store is usually staffed by two people.

This Friday, though, he, his wife, their two sons and their two employees will all work. Family friends will pop in during the day to lend a hand, too.

"Oh yeah, it's crazy," he said. "My wife will usually have a crockpot of something going for lunch and dinner because there literally won't be any time to stop.

"We'll be on the move all day going through cases of handwarmers, selling ammo, scopes, even some rifles. I'll have to have two people just selling licenses, too. You're pretty tired when it's all said and done."

Game Commission wildlife conservation officers will be busy this weekend as well, though that's not unusual, said Tom Fazi, a supervisor in the agency's southwest region office.

Unlike their counterparts at the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, who often work all night prior to the trout season opener to make sure no one starts early, wildlife officers do not babysit deer all weekend, he said. But they will be out in numbers.

"It's busy no matter what," Fazi said. "For us, as soon as November rolls around, or even October, once guys start spotlighting, our guys are out every night on patrol, whether it's the weekend before the season or the month before the season."

Pennsylvania bureau of forestry employees, meanwhile, work varying schedules by district.

Jeanne Wambaugh, district forester for Elk State Forest, said rangers work this weekend, opening gates and assisting the public "with public use maps, directions, and general information."

Rangers are more hands-off in Forbes State Forest — especially come Monday, said district forester Ed Callahan.

"If we get a deep snow, we will try to plow our joint-use roads, but this time of year most of our wage staff is off, which only leaves two salaried employees in each maintenance division," he said.

If Gorol will work enough for all of them, that's OK, he said. The next few days are great for business — only the days before the trout opener rival it — and more enjoyable than you might think, he said.

"It's actually pretty fun because everybody that comes in is in a good mood, so it's a real social atmosphere," he said.

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