Deer hunt reports seem mostly grim

Pittsburgh – The first half of firearms deer season was a mixed
bag in terms of harvest, weather and hunter numbers, though many
woods were absent predator and prey.

“Archery season was average to above. Gun season noticeably
slowed,” said Josh Roeder, of Nockamixon Sports Shop in Bucks
County. “The weather was decent, but guys just weren’t going out. I
think some of it had to do with jobs. People who had work were
doing that; they weren’t hunting.”

He said many hunters who did go out expressed concerns about the
make-up of the herd. “There’s definitely been an increase in big
bucks over the past five years and guys were happy about it until
they realized all the does are gone,” he said.

“The other thing is, there’s been a vast increase around here in
the number of scrapper bucks. Where they used to be taken in gun
season, they’re not being taken anymore, so a lot are surviving and
growing up and what not. There’s this big increase in
scrappers.”

“We don’t know what to make of things. We’re scratching our
heads.”

Hunters at the opposite end of the state in Warren County were
up against a lot of snow and too few deer, according to the owner
of Allegheny Field and Stream, a man who goes by Murdoch. “A couple
of inches of snow would have been fine, but we got a couple of
feet, which was bad. Then it rained and froze up and that put the
kibosh to a lot of it.”

“Deer’ll bed down when you get ice on top of snow. You won’t see
them again till it’s gone.”

And there weren’t many deer to begin with, he said. “I believe
the deer population is down, although there are some real nice
bucks out there. Three were brought into the shop this week,
including a couple of nine-pointers.”

Glen McConnell, of McConnell’s County Store in Waterville,
Lycoming County, also saw some nice bucks, but not much else. “One
buck had a 23-inch spread,” he said. “But the quantity of deer was
way down. A lot of people are thoroughly discouraged, especially
those with younger kids. They’re going out and not seeing deer. If
you want to get youngsters interested in hunting, you have to be
able to show them deer.”

Weather was a problem, too, he said, with icy roads hampering
hunter travel in some parts, and heavy snow causing hassles in
others. “We hunted off Route 44 in Clinton County, about 15 miles
outside Waterville,” McConnell said. “I had snow up to my
knees.”

Wildlife Management Unit 2G was bucks-only for the first five
days of the season, and McConnell anticipated a light turnout for
bucks and does the second week. “It’ll be slim, which, given the
numbers, is a good thing,” he said.

By contrast, Lynn Urban, at Wallenpaupack Sports Shop, said Pike
and Wayne counties had “a ton of does,” but far fewer people
hunting them. “I saw some nice bucks, too,” he said. “A couple were
nine-pointers. Our license sales were down this year, though.”

Because October license sales were slightly ahead of October
2007, the Pennsylvania Game Commission was projecting more hunters
would be heading to the woods this fall. But November is the
strongest sales month, and those figures aren’t in yet.

Blaine Hertzog, of Mike’s Bait and Sports Shop in Nazareth, at
the base of the Pocono Mountains, said hunter numbers were at least
as good as last year, but the number of deer taken was off. “Our
license sales were brisk and guys were seeing nice big bucks but
there were fewer of them and fewer does,” he said.

“You figure for every guy that buys a doe tag with no plans to
shoot one, there’s another guy with 10 tags that shoots 10 does.
And those does have young deer in their bellies.”

Bob Mohra, of Fergie’s in Mercer County, judged the start of the
season by his ammunition sales, and it wasn’t looking good. “There
was a big drop-off. I used to sell 30, 40 boxes, now I’m down to
selling five,” he said on the third day of the season.

At least one young man, though, was bucking that trend at his
family’s hunting camp in Greene County. Zack Shimko, 15, shot a
five-point buck opening day. His mother Debbie Shimko outdid him
with an eight-pointer.

According to Zack’s grandfather D.R. Plants, 2 inches of snow
made opening day conditions “super,” and there was no shortage of
bucks or does. Four members of the Plants-Shimko party bagged eight
deer.

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