Sunday, November 29, 2015

Outlook For Statewide Pennsylvania Deer Season Better Than 2014

A pair of 8 points taken by Bull Creek Secretary
Pete Denio and his son in 2014 in Clarion County
By Bob Frye 
Last year's statewide firearms deer season likely left more hunters than usual feeling disappointed.
According to Pennsylvania Game Commission harvest estimates, the kill of 303,973 was down 14 percent compared to the year before and by as much as 22 percent in some Western Pennsylvania wildlife management units.
Part of that was expected as the commission made available fewer antlerless deer licenses.
But opening day and both Saturdays of the season, which account for the majority of the hunting pressure and harvest, were miserable, said Chris Reidmiller, the commission's wildlife conservation officer in southern Indiana County.
“Each day had that 35 degrees and rain kind of weather. I think that played a part in how things went,” Reidmiller said.
“There were places I was at, with the rain and fog, that you couldn't see 50 feet,” said Shawn Harshaw, the commission's officer in northern Cambria County.
The good news? That might mean better hunting this time around. The 2015 deer season runs Monday through Dec. 12, and reports from around the region indicate deer numbers are looking good.
“This year, I've seen more deer than I have in the past three years. There are a lot of trophy-class bucks, too,” said Shawn Barron, a conservation officer in southern Somerset County. “It looks promising to me. It just seems like this year is going to be better than most.”
Other officers were equally optimistic.
Dan Sitler, who works northern Washington County, said he has seen and heard of more big bucks this year than last.
“We have lots of deer and lots of nice bucks running around. And it's not just in one place but all over. From the West Virginia line all the way to Peters Township and everywhere in between, we've got lots of deer,” Sitler said.
Chris Bergman, the officer in eastern Washington who also covers western Fayette, said deer are everywhere in both of those areas, too. Rod Burns, officer in eastern Armstrong, said the same is true there, as did officers Matt Kramer in southern Beaver and Mike Papinak in northern Westmoreland.
Steve Leiendecker, a land management supervisor for the commission who works in Fayette and Greene counties, singled out game lands 223 and 179 in Greene as potential hot spots.
“If I wanted to point someone in the right direction for deer, I'm thinking Greene County would be the place to go. It's really holding a good number of deer,” he added.
Even southern Cambria, where deer numbers were low just a few years ago, has seen the herd rebound where it's in good shape, officer Seth Mesoras said.
Things are a little trickier in southern Butler County. It also has lots of deer, said conservation officer Randy Pilarcik, who patrols from Slippery Rock south to Cranberry. But access is an issue, he said.
“We've got way too many deer. The problem is finding places to hunt,” he said.
That's not the case in northern Indiana County, said Nate Kimmel, the commission's wildlife conservation officer there.
“I've been seeing an exorbitant amount of deer,” he said. “I think it's a huge opportunity up here in Indiana County.”
There's ample public land, Kimmel added, including two of the southwest region's “deer hunter focus areas,” places where the commission is increasing access to get hunters to new timber cuts that potentially are full of whitetails. One is on game land 174, the other game land 262.
Other focus areas locally are located on game land 111 in Fayette and Somerset, 51 in Fayette, 223 in Greene and 108 in Cambria and Blair.
Maps of all are available at .
Dave Gustafson, the commission's chief forester, said hunters would be wise to spend time in those places. In years past, such timber cuts often have been tough to get to, being “remote destinations” far from roads, he said. But the commission is trying make things easier by opening roads leading closer to focus areas, he said.
“Our goal is to guide hunters within a half-mile or less of game lands locations where deer are taking advantage of these habitat improvements,” Gustafson said.
Regardless of the where they go, hunters always are advised to hunt places with lots of food for deer. This year, that may require some exploring.
Commission bear biologist Mark Ternent compiles the state's annual fall foods abundance survey. He said acorn crops are average or better in most places.
A couple of local counties, however, are lacking.
Mary Jo Casalena, the commission's turkey biologist, said the acorn crop in Somerset County is “below average.” Harshaw said the acorn crop in Cambria likewise was poor and already is largely gone.
Things look better in Fayette, Leiendecker said. The woods that make up game land 51 seem to have lots of acorns, especially in the higher elevations in the Dunbar area, he said.
Now if only the conditions are better this year.
“I feel as long as the weather cooperates, it should be a pretty decent season,” Bergman said.
Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments will be moderated. Anyone may comment.