PGC's High Hopes
Inside the Outdoors,December 4,
2015

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has high hopes concerning this year’s deer rifle season with the anticipation that the harvest will be one of the best compared to the year’s past.

According to its Executive Director R. Matthew Hough, “Thousands of the state’s hunters will experience the best days afield in the season to come.”

If that is true, times will have changed from the 2008-2009 initial days of hunting when weather played into it keeping hunters from challenging the elements with the same hopes that they will have this year.

Even PGC’s Wildlife Conservation Officer Supervisor Tom Fazi stated in December of 2009, “It was pretty bad to be out,” and area hunters reflected the same sentiments, the general feeling was “It could only get better,” and eventually it did.

But as Christopher Rosenberry analyzed this year’s situation, he stated, “While deer populations are being tracked as stable or increasing in each of the state’s 23 wildlife management units, many other factors, such as food availability, influence local deer movements and deer hunting,” commented the supervisor of the PGC’s Deer and Elk Section.

Even Dave Gustafson, chief forester, noted, “While production of acorns, beechnuts and soft mast crops such as apples, berries and grapes, more consistent in western and southern portions of the state, in much of Pennsylvania find mast is hit and miss,” he said.

He pointed out that on ridge tops, there may be lots of acorns or apples, but not so much in other places. A matter of fact, “You might find another like it for miles. In some areas, there are pockets where mast production is good, and then a sizeable surrounding re where mast doesn’t appear to be available. It’s one of those years where hunters might have to look hard to find those food sources that are important to deer.”

But here’s an interesting observation. “Research shows that deer harvests tend to drop in years when mast is especially abundant. When there’s food everywhere, deer can be harder to find. When food is less abundant, deer tend to concentrate in the areas where it’s available.”

So, does this point to the fact that this year will be a high harvest year of something comparable years past, not as miserable as in 2009, but hopefully much better? These two weeks will tell the story. Of course, the final stats won’t be tallied for quite some time, as the PGC will need time to gather up all the information necessary to make its conclusions.

“Most years, Rosenberry concluded, “the buck harvest is split evenly between yearling and adult bucks. We don’t know if last year’s result was an anomaly or the beginning of a trend, but older bucks were well represented in the harvest.”

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Someone shared a story with me recently that I’d thought I’d pass along.

During archery season, a hunter had wounded a deer. It was literally tramping through the woods, dying with each foot forward. When it entered an owner’s neighboring backyard, the animal fell over and lay there.

A woman looking out her window of her house noticed the dying creature and called 911. That was a good move. What she did after that lacked common sense. She went up to the animal, kneeled down and held its antlers until wildlife conservation officers arrived on the scene to put down the animal.

Upon hearing of this story, I contacted the Pennsylvania Game Commission to find out what the correct procedure would be concerning this matter. A representative told me, “Do not go near the animal. It still has a lot of adrenalin in it and will kick one if given the chance. If individuals get too close to wounded animals, it can only lead to problems,” he said. He concluded, “One has to be cautious and stay clear of these animals. Otherwise, he just may get injured in the process of trying to be helpful.”

Apparently, this isn’t an isolated case. He has heard similar stories.

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Recently, I had a conversation with a past customer of mine while sitting in a doctor’s waiting room recently. He stated that in the last two years he had fished in the Loyalhanna Creek and never caught one thing.

I began to conclude whatever line he was using he certainly forgot to put on a hook. After all, my experiences proved worthy as I could catch a nice-sized trout within 15 minutes and return home if I wished. I could only conclude in the little time we had together that his methodology in fishing in the number two stream in in the state was altogether wrong, or he had chosen inhabitable areas where fish once congregated.


- Paul J. Volkmann
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