It is always a remarkable occurrence, yet a pleasant phenomenon, that within days after the “rifle” season for deer concludes here in Pennsylvania, whitetails that survived the extensive pursuit of hunters — from archery through rifle season and everything else in between — seem to “pop up” from nowhere, and show themselves in daylight. It’s as if they know the hunters are gone, and once again the woods and fields are theirs alone.
By this past Monday morning, while traveling to keep an appointment, I saw two groups of deer, not far from my home, and at spots where deer are hunted, feeding in grass fields in open sight, well past sunrise.
The first bunch numbered about 10 as I made a hurried rough count, the second group about a mile farther up the road, definitely numbered seven. From what I could see, they consisted of mature does and younger family members. All appeared anterless, but in truth I could have easily missed some smaller racks because there was little time to scrutinize.
I’m referring mostly locally, but it seems that many hunters have put some venison into their freezers by the regular deer season’s end this past Saturday. Speaking with the owner of a local butcher shop just before the rifle season began, he assured me that he had already processed a large amount of hunters successes that were brought to him by way of proud nimrods who found achievement during the archery, early muzzleloader and the junior/senior seasons. Adding the “rifle season” kill had to equate with a whole bunch of deer that passed through his processing quarters.
Of course I cannot know how hunters did statewide, especially those who hunt the “big mountain” regions of public land located throughout the state, but I’m certainly curious. Some people tell me they believe deer numbers are increasing on big tracts of public land, and an increase in harvest numbers would point to that fact. But speaking with a few members of a couple of upstate camps I know, their results seem poor at best, and their continued complaints just as plentiful.
Certainly, private properties seem to provide the best opportunities to score a whitetail, but I do know enough hunters, apart from those mentioned above, who swear public land has plenty too, and all it takes is a little extra exercise to find them.
As far back as I can remember — and that’s going back a good many years — deer numbers, and debates about their actual count-have always been questioned and argued in every possible manner and in every possible setting where hunters gather. I suppose that will never really change.
All I do know is that I know longer concern myself with where there are a lot of deer, or conversely, no deer. Rather, come that Monday after Christmas, my apprehension will be placed in thoughts of exactly where I’ll be sitting in the couple of patches of woods I do hunt, with my flintlock in hand, hoping a whitetail walks past in snow-covered surroundings within a close enough range, and that I make a true and accurate shot.
And those, I might add, are some mighty fine thoughts.