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South Williamsport, PA
United States

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The Roving Sportsman… A Pennsylvania Tradition

On this past Monday, more than a million hunters hit Penn’s woods in pursuit of whitetail deer. Schools closed for the day throughout the Commonwealth since a great percentage of students, teachers and staff would, no doubt, have been absent for the day with some variation of “buck fever” or “one-day deer flu”! Being a

On this past Monday, more than a million hunters hit Penn’s woods in pursuit of whitetail deer. Schools closed for the day throughout the Commonwealth since a great percentage of students, teachers and staff would, no doubt, have been absent for the day with some variation of “buck fever” or “one-day deer flu”! Being a participant in the Opening Day of Deer Season has been a tradition in our state for generations and gives hunters the opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime.

Every year, during the weekend preceding the opening day, the excitement of the first day of deer season is evident by the steady flow of pickup trucks and SUVs northbound, each one laden with hunting gear, gun racks and several occupants dressed in fluorescent orange. These travelers all have one thing in common — to get to “camp” for opening day, and hopefully with a few days to relax before the opener. Most will go to a hunting cabin where they will be joined by a handful of hunting buddies, and some will go to a hunting club where up to 30 or 40 would-be deer slayers will spend the upcoming week or two deer hunting. Many of the local folks will go to a nearby camp, with some merely walking out their back doors to hunt on their own or neighboring properties. But each and every one will toss and turn the night before the big day and wake up before the alarm has a chance to signal that it is time to roll out and start the day.

Interestingly, the opportunities for success in hunting Pennsylvania whitetails seem to improve each year. In 2002, antler restrictions were put in place that requires a minimum number of points for a legally taken buck. Last year, 163,750 bucks were taken by hunters, and thus yielding the second-largest harvest of bucks since the antler restriction was put into place. While only about one-third of hunters were successful in taking a deer last year, the numbers should go up for this hunting season.

Less than two decades ago, the majority of bucks taken were shot on the first day of the season, with the greatest percentage being 1 ½-year-old deer. Last year, that percentage of young bucks dropped again, with 57% of bucks taken being 2 ½-year-old or older bucks with larger racks. For those hunters who are interested in taking a larger racked buck, the chances grow with each coming year. If you question this, take a trip to local taxidermists and the area butcher shops where you will see for yourself that bigger racked and larger bodied deer are taken each year.

Along with the high percentage of opening day success, the first Saturday of the season also yields a high degree of success. These two days are the ones when the greatest number of hunters are in the woods. As hunters move into the woods after breakfast and then back out as darkness descends at the end of the day (along with a possible roundtrip back to the cabin for lunch!), they will push deer by another hunter who is patiently waiting on his stand. For a hunter who can be patient enough, his best friends are all of those other hunters moving in and out, too impatient to stand still for very long!

An interesting fact is that last year, for the very first time in Pennsylvania’s deer management history, hunters took more deer on the first Saturday than on the opening day! Whether you are hunting by yourself, with a buddy or two, or in a gang of a larger number of hunters, the greater amount of time you spend in the woods, the greater your chances of success will be. If you can just discipline yourself to pack a lunch or some snacks and be in the woods from before daylight to the end of legal shooting hours just before dark, you will have the greatest chance of harvesting a nice buck — perhaps even that “buck of a lifetime” that we all daydream about!

Remember to always wear the required amount of fluorescent orange and Always Positively Identify Your Target — and beyond!

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