First week of Pennsylvania rifle season clearly most sluggish ever experienced by this deer hunter
Perhaps the best way to open this post is to narrate my day-to-day hunting during the first week of Pennsylvania’s rifle season.
Monday: First day of rifle season always arrives with exhilaration and high hopes for any hunter, and even for the dedicated archery hunter I am, the gun season’s first day always excites me.
As legal shooting time arrived I was perched in my portable stand with a steady wind out of the east and partly cloudy skies. At 6:55 a.m. I heard my first shot at a great distance. Between 7 and 8 there was shooting surrounding me, but certainly not the number of shots I expected. Only two shoots were relatively close, and the long wooded valley and opposite hillside that lay below me were quiet also, which was highly unusual to say the least.
By noon I had seen no deer and heard only a few more scattered shots that were distant. I stayed tree-bound. Between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. about a dozen shots sounded as I assumed hunters were returning to the woods and moved deer to others. One shot was behind me at perhaps 600 to 700 yards, the others far away.
I stayed up the tree till darkness fell, heard few shots and saw no deer.
Tuesday: I was up a tree a few hundred yards from my opening day spot by 6:15 a.m. A mostly steady rain fell throughout the morning. I had heard three shots and saw no deer, and by 9:30 I was out of the tree and heading home. I did not hunt the evening.
Wednesday: Heavy rain was falling when I awoke, and I did not hunt. By late afternoon the rain was a drizzle and I returned to the mountaintop where I hunt. The fog up there was exceptionally thick. I saw no deer and heard no shooting.
Thursday: I was up the same tree as the first day when legal time arrived. A strong northwest wind with even stronger gusts that blew squalls of snow moved my tree like a bouncing boat. I saw nothing and heard six distant shots. I left at 10 a.m., but when walking back to my truck I jumped a one-horned spike buck that had bedded close to me. I returned by 2:30 p.m. with the wind still strong. I saw two does leave some heavy pines about 4:30 p.m. They were in thick woods at over 100 yards, and still they must have caught my scent after a few steps because they raised their tails and hopped away in the opposite direction. I heard one shot in the afternoon that was behind me at a good distance.
Friday: Up the same tree as the first and fourth days – trust me, it is a good spot – and stayed till 10 a.m. Saw nothing and heard four distant shots. Returned to the mountain at three to sit along the edge of a nearby field where deer often come to munch the orbs in the late daylight hours of any given day. Saw nothing and heard one distant shot.
I did not hunt Saturday.
Every single person I talked with said the same as me, that they thought this to be the fewest shots they had ever heard during the course of the first week of rifle season, with the fewest deer and fewest hunters they had seen.
It is important to mention that I was hunting in Wildlife Management Unit 5C, where both antlered and antlerless deer are legal quarry. It is also worth noting, at least in my particular case, that this is the same area I do a lot of archery hunting and I know there are deer living in the area, a good number of them.
I wish I could explain why the season has been so slow and quiet. Perhaps because the weather is relatively warm, at least to a deer, and they simply do not move until the land is dark under night skies, and that is why few are seen.
Or perhaps because hunters haven’t moved enough to chase deer to other spots, or even that hunter numbers are fewer, and deer are safe where they are staying at that particular time.
Or even that the rush of first-day hunters into the woods sends the deer into little spaces near homes and other safe havens where hunters cannot get at them.
Seems as if everyone I talk with has a different theory about why there is little shooting and few sightings of deer in such a large area where there is certainly sign of their living there. All I know is the reality of the calmest and quietest first week of Pennsylvania rifle season that I have seen.