Statewide Firearms Coming
Inside the Outdoors, November 27,

All it takes is the talk about Thanksgiving and most hunters manning firearms know that the opener of statewide firearms deer season is days away. And to add to that thought, much talk is in the air.

There always seems to be two different avenues. Either the deer are sparse or in some places much to many.

One woman told me recently that in Derry Township, for example, there is an overabundance of deer and she has seen them everywhere. Others have stated that while driving in wooded areas, they have encountered none, and wonder what happened to them all.

Tell that to the people in Allegheny County’s Mt. Lebanon where the community is have trouble eliminating these animals from small wooded areas.

But with all that taken into consideration, Nov. 30 marks the date when this particular season gets underway in the commonwealth. This will go until Dec. 12.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission suggests one head to the state game lands for some of best deer hunting around. A matter of fact, it has gone so far as to post green-and-yellow paper placards in the woods reading “Deer Hunter Focus Area.” I think it has established a deer hunter-made-easy program for sportsmen, providing one can read, that is.

Unfortunately, the closest county where these are posted is Indiana applicable to State Game Lands 174 and 262.

I had a good friend who has since passed. Latrobe’s John Stewart used to tell me how he and his faithful four-legged friend would always venture to Indiana County to hunt. He used to tell me “I like to make one more visit before moving on,” but never did.

I think every sportsman has that in his blood. I have talked to many over the years who have shared the same sediments. It shows a true passion for something one really enjoys in the great outdoors. John was no exception.

He never told me exactly where he hunted, but the true outdoorsman may hint in what proximity he may hunt, but never give his secret spot away.

On the other hand, the PGC is making it easy for hunters who wish to follow these “clues.”

According to a spokesman for the Commission, “Sections of game lands posted As Deer Hunter Focus Areas recently have undergone timber harvests or other habitat modifications that typically cause deer to concentrate because of an abundance of newly available food. Many of these areas are off the beaten path, and have been posted to alert hunters to their presence and the potential they hold,” he said.

“Some of the best places to hunt deer on state game lands are in remote, often mountainous, areas where forest-management practices have opened the canopy to promote increased plant growth,” said Dave Gustafson, chief forester for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

And it made sense when he stated, “That’s where this program intends to help hunters. Our goal is to guide hunters within a half-mile or less of game land locations where deer are taking locations of these habitat improvements.”

And when one thinks about it, anything that Gustafson states above and in the following comments could be applied to hunting in other locales as well and not only state game lands.

For example, he noted, “In large tracts of forest lands, deer are drawn – almost immediately to wherever any thinning of the forest canopy occurs. Such places quickly offer increased amounts of browse-forest plants and other succulent vegetation that are an important part of a deer’s diet. Thinned forest areas usually provided sufficient cover, too,” he stated.

I’m quickly reminded of fields that border forests that run a distance along Donahue Road between Greensburg and Latrobe. Often, there can be seen a whole herd of deer, mostly young, but old enough to be over one year of age. Toward evening is the best time to spot these animals as they come out to forage on the grasses of the field.

Of course, there is an explanation behind the PGC’s course of action. Again, the expert points out, “But drawing enough hunting pressure to these areas is key to maintaining that habitat. And as part of the program, more game land roads will be opened to vehicles. That should help hunters cut the time it takes to travel and hike to their hunting spots, whether they’re hunting in a Deer Hunter Focus Are or somewhere else. By getting hunters into these areas, we can keep deer numbers in balance with available food, and the land can continue to provide for deer there, making these places ideal hunting spots for years to come.”

One is allowed on antlered deer per license year and one antlerless with each required license or permit.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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