Deer-harvest Trend Up And Likely To Continue
Recent trends indicate the odds favor hunters when they take to the woods today for the opening of Pennsylvania’s two-week firearms deer season.
The number of deer killed by hunters increased during the 2017-2018 seasons, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Both the 163,750 bucks and the overall total of 367,159 deer taken represented about a 10 percent increase from the 149,460 bucks and 333,254 total deer taken during the 2016-17 seasons.
Since the game commission began using its calculated formula in 1986, last year’s buck total is second only to the 165,416 taken in 2002. That was the first year of antler restrictions — which, regionally, is a minimum of three points on one antler.
“Most of Pennsylvania’s deer are taken by hunters participating in the firearms season,” game commission deer and elk biologist Chris Rosenberry said. “It has been our principal tool for managing deer for more than a century.
“It is the season that draws the largest crowd, and the season for which some rural schools still close their doors on the opener to allow their students — and teachers — to hunt. Opening day of the firearms season is the day every deer hunter wants to be afield. It’s almost always the most exciting day of the season and therefore usually offers the greatest opportunity. About a quarter of the season’s bucks are taken on the opener, but firearms season — not just opening day — has the potential to be something special.”
Larger-racked — and older — bucks are making up more of the deer taken with each passing year. In 2016, 56 percent of the antlered bucks taken were 2½ years old or older, and the rest were 1½ years old.
“Older, bigger-racked bucks are more of the norm in the forests of Pennsylvania than they have been for at least a couple decades,” Rosenberry said. “There’s no doubt antler restrictions paved the way.
“It was a big step forward, and today we’re seeing the results for protecting young bucks. Every year, Pennsylvania hunters are taking once-in-a-lifetime bucks, and some are ‘book bucks’ that make the Pennsylvania Big Game Records book or Boone & Crockett Club rankings, or simply win neighborhood bragging rights.”
Game commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans agreed that the upswing should continue.
“Agency deer biologists believe there’s a chance we’ll see the state’s buck total increase for the fourth consecutive year,” he said.
Firearms deer season starts today
Dates: Nov. 26 to Dec. 8.
Regulations: One antlered deer per hunting license. An antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.
Licenses: Hunters must possess a valid general hunting license, which costs $20.90 for adult residents and $101.90 for adult nonresidents. Each hunter between the ages of 12 and 16 must possess a junior license, which costs $6.90 for residents and $41.90 for nonresidents.
Tagging and reporting: A valid tag must be affixed to an ear of each deer harvested before that deer is moved. The tag must be filled out in ink by the hunter. Harvests can be reported by calling 855-724-8681, by mail or online at the game commission’s website, www.pgc.state.pa.us.
Photos wanted: If you enjoyed success during deer season, we want to see your photo. Email the photo, your name, hometown and where the deer was shot to