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The Roving Sportsman… “Whitetails”

There is probably no other single word in the English language that will conjure up so much daydreaming and conversation among fellow hunters than the word “whitetails!” While there are certainly many avid turkey, bear, upland game and waterfowl hunters from coast to coast, the majority spend more time talking about whitetails than any other game they pursue. Whether you are at the local barber shop, sporting goods store, or standing on the church steps after an inspiring Sunday sermon – frequently the talk centers around deer and deer hunting, and whitetails in particular.

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of pursuing whitetails in northern Pennsylvania, central and southern Texas and northern Illinois. And, no matter where I have been, when in deer camp or hunting with some buddies in a remote location, the talk centering on whitetails goes on for hours, sometimes into the wee hours of the morning. The mysteries, the mystiques, the facts and the fiction surrounding this favorite animal seem endless. So, what are some of the things that hunters agree upon and what initiates back and forth discussions surrounding this popular big game animal?

Back when antler restrictions were first put in place here in Pennsylvania, a lot of hunters condemned the Pennsylvania Game Commission for their decisions. At deer camp and among deer hunters, much heated discussion took place. At the time, hunters were shooting a high percentage of year and a half old bucks, and most of those on opening day and the first few days of the season. The bucks were simply not even close to reaching maturity. Oh, yes, there are those who say that antlers don’t matter, but in reality, if a large-racked mature buck was standing next to a scruffy, small-racked buck, there is a better chance most hunters would take the larger animal. But they were scarce since most bucks were being taken at such a young age. Enter the antler restriction regulation.

Over the first few years of the new policy, hunters began to see more larger-racked mature bucks, and over the several years of the policy’s existence, attitudes began to change. A visit to local butcher shops or taxidermist businesses would reveal numerous larger, more mature and better developed bucks were being taken. And, the trend continues. Each year, taxidermists are being brought larger bucks and butchers are processing larger animals as well. Today, it seems that most Pennsylvania whitetail hunters are understanding and embracing the restriction. After all, if taking great tasting, organic meat to feed the family is your only interest, there are plenty of opportunities to take antlerless deer, which are tenderer and often better tasting!

Hunting deer in Pennsylvania over bait is illegal throughout most of the state. Baiting is allowed conditionally on private property in the Southeast Special Regulation Area. Any artificial or natural bait, food, hay, grain, fruit, nuts salt, chemicals or minerals, including their residues cannot be used within a 30-day period of a hunting season. This restriction does not apply to hunting near areas where accepted farming or habitat management practices are taking place.

With this in mind, and if you don’t have any food plots that you are currently managing, remember that farmers don’t particularly like it when too many deer are eating their corn or soybean crops before they can be harvested. And farmers really don’t like it when a bear or several bears begin knocking down and gorging themselves on their field corn!

Ask your local game warden, or visit the nearby feed and farm supply store to find out if there might be an area farmer who is encountering a problem with too many deer or an overactive bear that is ruining some of their crops.

Whether your hunting is strictly within the borders of Pennsylvania, or if you travel across the country to hunt big game, it is certain that talking about whitetails is almost as enjoyable as feasting on a fresh backstrap gently roasted over the orange-red embers of a mesquite fire!

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