White­tails, wa­ter­fowl on the mind this fall

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - Tom Ta­tum Colum­nist

Right now the big-ticket item on ev­ery Penn­syl­va­nia hunter’s hol­i­day shop­ping list is the white­tail deer, prefer­ably a tro­phy buck. To that end, Key­stone State hun­ters were out in force scour­ing our fields and forests when the firearms deer sea­son opened yes­ter­day (Mon­day, Nov. 28).

Mother na­ture pro­vided perfect weather for the opener with tem­per­a­tures hov­er­ing around freez­ing and calm skies when the sea­son of­fi­cially be­gan at 6:36 a.m. That’s just about the same time I heard the first dis­tant shot fired — call it the sea­son’s open­ing gun — from my stand at an undis­closed Ch­esco lo­ca­tion. For the next hour or so, as a warm­ing sun be­gan to rise, a smat­ter­ing of gun­fire, both near and far, reached my ears.

All told I heard around a dozen or so shots that morn­ing. Ap­par­ently a few other Ch­ester County deer hun­ters out there were suc­cess­ful in col­lect­ing their veni­son while my morn­ing’s vigil failed to pro­vide even the mer­est glimpse of any buck or doe -- not that I didn’t have a few close en­coun­ters dur­ing the archery sea­son that ended here on Satur­day.

While I passed up a few small but le­gal young bucks tot­ing my bow and ar­row around through a few Ch­esco wood­lots, I never crossed paths with a real bruiser buck. The one ex­cep­tion to that was when a huge-bod­ied buck crossed a few yards in front of my tree­stand. I es­ti­mated that the buck would prob­a­bly hit the scales at 200 pounds or more, but I let him go due to the de­formed, un­der­sized right antler his flawed head­gear boasted.

Then, as the archery sea­son wound down last week, I re­turned home from the morn­ing’s hunt to dis­cover the same cow­faced buck in my front yard ca­su­ally chew­ing his cud. He had brazenly bed­ded down about half­way be­tween one of my tree stands and my archery tar­get. So I shot him... with my cam­era, and got some great pho­tos of that nervy buck from my liv­ing room.

One other nice buck (this one I wouldn’t have passed up) ap­peared in my back yard a few times dur­ing archery sea­son’s wan­ing days. He twice am­bled within bow range of an­other tree stand where I had been perched a few hours ear­lier, taunt­ing my bad sense of tim­ing. So I shot him too...again with my cam­era, this time from my back deck. Maybe I’ll get an­other crack at him dur­ing late archery sea­son if I still have a tag to fill.

But white­tails aren’t the only items on the hol­i­day hunter’s wish list. Wa­ter­fowl are also high on the list, es­pe­cially Canada geese. Our South Zone duck sea­son re­opened last Tues­day, Nov. 22, and runs through Jan. 21. The Canada goose sea­son here in our At­lantic Pop­u­la­tion Zone re-opened on Nov. 15 but closed on Satur­day, Nov. 26. Ap­par­ently there were plenty of goose hun­ters out on Thanks­giv­ing day, black Fri­day, and Satur­day. A num­ber of goose hunt­ing sites with blinds and de­coy spreads ring our North­brook val­ley, and each of those three morn­ings I heard plenty of shot­gun salvos from ev­ery di­rec­tion lis­ten­ing from my un­pro­duc­tive tree stand. I as­sumed those hun­ters put a size­able dent in our ex­pan­sive Canada goose pop­u­la­tion.

Goose sea­son here re­mains closed dur­ing our firearms deer sea­son which ends on Dec. 10. Goose hun­ters here in the AP Zone will get yet an­other chance at their three goose daily limit when the sea­son re­opens on Dec. 17 and runs through the end of Jan­uary, 2017.

By the way, if you’re like me and didn’t col­lect your veni­son yes­ter­day (or dur­ing archery sea­son) our math­e­matic chances for suc­cess are sig­nif­i­cantly dwin­dling. Last year 27 per­cent of the to­tal deer har­vest – and 47 per­cent of the buck har­vest – oc­curred on open­ing day while deer bagged dur­ing archery sea­sons ac­counted for an­other 31 per­cent of the over­all deer har­vest.

But there’s still plenty of time to fill those deer tags (and don’t for­get that our late archery sea­son here in Wildlife Man­age­ment Units 5C and 5D opens on Dec. 26 and runs clear through Jan. 28) so shoot straight, hunt safe, and good luck.

THREE-DAY BEAR HAR­VEST RE­SULTS

Hun­ters dur­ing the third day of Penn­syl­va­nia’s statewide bear sea­son har­vested 415 bears, rais­ing the three-day to­tal to 2,308, about an 8 per­cent de­crease com­pared to the 2,487 bears taken dur­ing the first three days of the 2015 sea­son. Archery and other early bear sea­son har­vest data is still being cal­cu­lated.

Bears have been har­vested in 53 coun­ties dur­ing the statewide sea­son so far with the top 10 bears pro­cessed at check sta­tions were ei­ther es­ti­mated or con­firmed to have live weights of 616 pounds or more. The largest of the state’s heav­i­est bears – a male es­ti­mated at 700 pounds – was taken in Bar­rett Town­ship, Mon­roe County, by Chad D. Nau­man, of Cresco, Pa. He took it with a ri­fle at about 7 a.m. on Nov. 19, the sea­son’s open­ing day.

This nice 8-point buck ap­peared be­neath Ta­tum’s tree stand on black Fri­day. Un­for­tu­nately, Ta­tum was else­where at the time.

This white faced buck bed­ded down in Ta­tum’s front yard last week. The photo was taken from his liv­ing room.

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