The Times Herald (Norristown, PA)

Opening weekend for Pennsylvan­ia deer hunters not half bad

- Tom Tatum is the outdoors columnist for the MediaNews Group. You can reach him at

The opening of Pennsylvan­ia’s firearms deer season on Saturday found me hunkered down in my Chesco tree stand awaiting the 6:28 a.m. opening bell. It didn’t take long for the action to get under way as the initial shot sounded not far away at 6:38 — just 10 minutes after legal shooting time arrived.

A few ticks after seven I spotted a red fox loping through the woodlot. 15 minutes later, four deer streamed down the hillside, three does and a button buck.

I was wielding not a firearm, but a crossbow, and all four whitetails passed within easy bow range of my position. But for someone like me not in possession of an antlerless deer tag (thanks in part to a mix-up at the

HuntFish website where I purchased my licenses) none of those bald specimens were legal game.

Nary an antlered deer appeared that morning before I had to call it a day and attend to some family obligation­s that included finding just the right Christmas tree for us and our daughter’s tribe.

Opening day deer hunters and Christmas tree questers alike enjoyed excellent weather conditions on Saturday’s opener with mild temperatur­es, clear skies, and calm winds. Sunday was less propitious here in our southeast neck of Penn’s Woods where a steady rain ramped up by midmorning turning into a total washout by afternoon and likely chasing all but the most diehard hunters out of the deer woods by then.

I didn’t do any hunting on Saturday afternoon or Sunday although I enlisted my son-in-law’s assistance in relocating one of my tree stands later on Saturday.

Meanwhile, I did spot a five-point buck lurking in the woodlot near our house on the evening of the opener. And although that five-point would have been legal, I would be no threat to him since I’ve had my eye on a hefty eight-pointer that I crossed paths with a few times during our archery season. I’m thinking I might run into him again sometime during the firearms season, so I’ll keep on holding out until then.

The state’s deer season kicked off on Saturday, continued on and runs through Dec. 10. Hunting is closed only on Sunday. We might note that here in the Keystone State hunters, on a per square mile basis, take more deer than their counterpar­ts almost anywhere else in the country.

David Stainbrook, Deer and Elk Management Section Supervisor for the Pennsylvan­ia (PGC) Game Commission, said one way to measure trends is to look at the buck harvest per square mile.

That’s a good general barometer of deer population

abundance. According to the National Deer Associatio­n, in the 10 hunting seasons between 2011 and 2020, Pennsylvan­ia ranked second in the nation for buck harvest per square mile three times, third twice, fourth three times and fifth twice. Buck harvests over the decade averaged 3.2 per square mile, right in keeping with last year’s take.

Of course, the buck harvest per square mile varies between individual Wildlife Management Units (WMUs), with some producing more than others. WMU 2D, for example, produced 4.9 bucks per square mile each season over the last three, on average. That was tops in Pennsylvan­ia. Seven other WMUs also averaged at least four bucks per square mile over that time.

“Success in harvesting deer starts with scouting and knowing the land,” Stainbrook said. “But patience and putting in time are important, too. Persistenc­e matters, as one additional day hunting can make the difference between a successful season and an unsuccessf­ul one.”

The folks at the PGC

will tell you that a flexible season designed around when many people are off work — the weekend after Thanksgivi­ng — provides the chance for hunters to get out just that way, all while making memories with family and friends. In any case, that’s the agency’s primary justificat­ion for moving the traditiona­l opener from the first Monday after Thanksgivi­ng to Saturday and pairing it with one of three Sundays where hunting is now legal.

“Pennsylvan­ia’s firearms deer season draws more than 600,000 hunters to Penn’s Woods every year and it’s not hard to see why,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “A productive deer herd that, thanks to antler point restrictio­ns, includes a high proportion of adult bucks, spread out across the Commonweal­th, together with a season that’s as user friendly as any we’ve offered, set the stage for an exciting time.”

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 ?? TOM TATUM — FOR MEDIA NEWS GROUP ?? Tom Tatum’s camera tracks a deer he has been chasing.
TOM TATUM — FOR MEDIA NEWS GROUP Tom Tatum’s camera tracks a deer he has been chasing.

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