While having coffee with some friends the other morning, someone mentioned that another deer season would soon be underway. Yeah, hard to believe, but another season will soon be underway, and as always, there is much talk and speculation as to what to expect. Certainly, serious hunters have been watching cameras, fields, and other areas where deer are known to show up to see what to expect in the coming days. I’ve talked to a number of hunters who are reporting seeing some good bucks and decent numbers as well.
Another interesting comment that came up was that it appears that there seems to be fewer people hunting these days. While there seems to be less activity and excitement surrounding the opening day of the regular gun season, there may be some other factors at play. One of those factors is that there is far less opportunity to hunt on private land than in the past. These days, private landowners are less likely to grant hunting permission, and I know that has brought about a big change in my own deer hunting practices. Some other changes have taken place that may also contribute to that seemingly less “opening day ” excitement, and one big factor has a lot to do with the many archery hunting opportunities now available. Archery season has changed considerably in recent years, especially since crossbows now play a major role. Basically, the scoped crossbow is like shooting a rifle, making archery hunting very accessible to almost anybody. Add to that that there are more archery hunting opportunities now than in the past.
I decided to look into that archery factor a bit more, and here’s what I found. The Archery Trade Association says that Pennsylvania has more bowhunters now than ever before-more than 360,000-more than any other state. Keep in mind, too, that Pennsylvania deer hunters can not only hunt with a bow but we also offer a firearms season with a modern rifle, slug gun, inline muzzleloader, and flintlock. So, when it comes to deer hunting here, we offer many different opportunities using all kinds of tools in various seasons throughout the fall and winter months.
So, where does Pennsylvania rank when it comes to deer harvests? According to the National Deer Association, Pennsylvania ranked in the top five states in 2021 for antlered buck and antlerless deer harvests. In 2022-23, Pennsylvania hunters took an estimated 422,960 white-tailed deer. Of that total, 164,190 were bucks, and 258,770 were antlerless deer. Those numbers represent an increase of about 12 percent over the 2021-22 season.
By the way, something else that has changed the look of Pennsylvania’s deer hunting is the antler restrictions now in place. At one time, 80 percent of the bucks were shot as soon as they grew a single spike at least three inches long or two points. Nowadays, two out of every three bucks are 2.5 years old or older. When first passed, the antler restriction wasn’t too well
received, but now it is believed that two of every three hunters favor the antler restrictions.
Well, certainly, a lot of changes have come to deer hunting in Pennsylvania in recent years, but one thing is still the same: if you want to be successful, it pays to put some time into scouting and be prepared to spend some time in that stand.