Hunters Hit The Woods For The Opening Of Rifle Deer Season

November 28, 2017 GMT

LEHMAN TWP. — If 16-year-old Dillon Major is a little tired today, blame the untimely meeting of two of his hobbies — one late at night and one early in the morning.

The National Football League’s schedule saw his team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, finishing their game late Sunday night and the opening day of rifle deer season had Dillon and his father, Brooks Major, up early Monday morning.

The two Steelers fans would have gone to bed earlier if it weren’t for a game that required a last-minute field goal to secure Pittsburgh’s victory.

About six hours after they watched kicker Chris Boswell win the game, they were walking up a steep hill on Dillon’s uncle’s property in Huntington Twp., where Dillon would later bag the third buck of his young hunting career.

Previous years had seen him take about a week to shoot his quarry, but this year — his last with a junior license — he saw a herd of about eight deer trotting by on the season’s opening day.

“I just aimed downhill, saw the horns and shot it,” he said.

He took the five-point buck to Naugle’s Custom Butchering and Deer Processing, which saw a steady stream of hunters in the late morning come in with bucks.

His plans for the rest of that morning were simple: breakfast, and then a nap.

All over Pennsylvania, hunters took to the woods Monday for the start of rifle deer hunting season. About a quarter of each season’s harvest comes on the first day, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The season continues through Dec. 9.

Ken Livezey, 69, of Loyalville near Sweet Valley was another successful hunter on opening day.

Last year, he saw a buck, but his scope was broken. About 15 doe came through later.

This year, he got a regular license and an antlerless license to improve his chances.

He plans to keep some of the meat from his buck and donate the rest to an organization called Hunters Sharing The Harvest.

Hunters can only take antlered deer in most parts of the state, including the wildlife managements areas in Northeast Pennsylvania, until Saturday, Dec. 2. After that, both antlered and antlerless deer are fair game.

The game commission reported that Pennsylvania hunters have been taking older and larger-racked bucks since the start of antler restrictions in 2002.

In 2015, 59 percent of antlered bucks were 1.5 years old or older, which was the highest percentage of adult bucks reported in the season in decades. Last year, 56 percent of antlered bucks were 2.5 years old or older.

In Luzerne County, and in most of the state, bucks must have at least 3 points on one side of their antlers to be legal targets. Those points can include something called the “brow tine,” which is a point directly above where the antlers begin on a deer’s head. In parts of western Pennsylvania, hunters can’t include the brow tine among a buck’s points.

Hunter Jim Shubzda, 52, of Plains Twp. has his own criteria. He looks for bucks with at least eight points.

“I think giving some of these bucks another year, it would benefit the state and the herd,” he said. “Tighter restrictions would be great.”

Monday’s buck was the first he’s bagged in four years, after passing on smaller ones. He wants a statewide requirement that bucks have at least four points.

“I’d like to see them get a few more years on them. I’d like to see some of the bucks like the ones shot out in Ohio. There are some huge bucks being shot out there. But they’re giving them time to grow,” he said.

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