Typical spectrum of opinion follows ending of rifle deer season in Pennsylvania

(Photo by Windigo Images)

Although it only takes a day or two until results – and opinions – start rolling in from hunters who were out at the start of Pennsylvania’s rifle season for deer, I like to wait until the season ends before I decide how hunters viewed the experience.

For those who saw success, happiness always abounds, especially in younger hunters, many whom had their first episode of filling a tag. For a certain number who spent time afield and saw few or even no deer, they remain steadfast in their belief that deer are all but eliminated at the places they hunt.

And of course, there remains a huge middle ground of hunters who may or may not have attached a tag, but who accept the results without voicing positive or negative opinion.

I did not fill a tag, but that was of my own choosing, because throughout both archery and rifle season, does were nearby. As for legal bucks, not so much.

But being a flintlock hunter ever since the first season transpired on a select few state game lands, and having known many seasons since of filling a tag during this season for hunting whitetails with a primitive device, I have ample time remaining to take a deer.

As has been the case for quite a few years now, many hunters (and I know plenty) have already filled all the tags they wish during the archery season, and are not present in the fields and woods across the state when rifle seasons begins.

Many rifle hunters blame the lack of shooting on opening day on a shortage of deer, but I’m certain the success of archery season hunters plays a big role in decreased shooting.

This year, some camps in the big woods seem to have had an increase in success from previous seasons, at least those I know members of, or who in turn may know members of other camps I do not know, but reported how they did.

Some say deer numbers are increasing where they hunt (although they are guarded in that opinion), while others say that’s not true.

What certainly is obvious is that hunter numbers at camps when rifle season starts across the state have dwindled at a steady rate through the years. Blaming deer numbers is a widely held opinion, but dwindling interest in hunting on the whole by younger people and the aging of long-time members certainly plays a big part of hunter decline.

The camp I belong to in Tioga County has experienced exactly that. Many members have aged beyond the physical ability to spend a decent amount of time in the woods and visit mainly for the companionship camp hunting brings. Neither have we had enough young hunters show an interest to join and replace those of diminishing abilities, so hunter numbers at camp, who can hunt seriously, have dropped. But still, our camp shot two bucks and two does this rifle season.

On private lands, deer seem plentiful, and will remain so. Saturday afternoon into evening about 5 inches of snow blanketed the ground here in the southeastern part of the state. Yesterday, with deer season ended, I drove to one of the spots I hunt to cut some firewood for the property’s owners. Driving there I cross a large mountain, which is all private property with various owners.

Most of that land is hunted by someone, so deer there know some pressure, but I could not count the number of deer crossings I saw in the snow while driving to my destination — trust me, they were abundant. Even the dirt lane to the property where I cut wood was covered by deer tracks.

So, the overall talk of the rifle season just completed remains much the same as it has over the last 15 years or so. Some hunters are happy, and some are angry, and some are just pleased to be able to get out no matter how the season ends.

Count me in that last group.

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