Another gun deer hunting season in the books, with mixed results
The statewide two-week season for deer ended this past Saturday, and results are mixed, which seems to be the norm for many seasons.
I get to speak with plenty of hunters, many who hunt various deer seasons in one-on-one outings for whitetails. In spite of that, many are also members of camps that are located in the traditional areas of “deer country” in the northern sections of Pennsylvania and include in their deer hunting additional time at their respective camps during the two-week season.
Some camps have done well, harvesting antlered as well as anterless deer. Some have taken only bucks, and some only does. Those that have seen zero success are few, at least in my conversations with hunters.
There seems to be a general consensus that deer numbers are increasing across the state, and I base that again on conversations with hunters who tell me that they’re seeing more deer in recent years compared to just four or five years ago.
Whether that is due to the reduction of the number of days of legal harvesting of anterless deer for most of the state remains open to opinion, but if my conversations with hunters represent any sort of sample slice of people afield, that certainly seems to be their foremost belief.
Of course, there are still those who complain of low deer numbers wherever they hunt. I’ve known hunters who have complained about that for more than 50 years, and that refrain will continue as long as deer seasons carry on.
What I have noticed, however — and this concerns me greatly — is the general aging of hunting camp membership. And worse, there seems to be little or no infusion of younger, enthusiastic members.
This is certainly the main topic across America when the discussions turn to hunting’s future, specifically the huge decline of interest in hunting with the youth of today.
As it pertains to deer hunting, I think of how this dearth of young hunters lowers harvest results in hunting camps anywhere in the state, and I give this example.
The camp I belong to sits a couple of miles from the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. For the majority of current members, which includes me, we joined camp in our early 20s. When rifle season arrived, only a couple of the guys were privileged to have the opening day or two of the season to hunt. The rest of us had not worked our jobs for enough years to get vacation for the first week of the season, losing out to those more senior employees who were deer hunters.
Our only recourse was to hunt the second week of the season, even if it was only the last two or three days of buck hunting. If we were lucky enough, we would spend the following Monday at camp to hunt does.
But when our time to hunt came during that second week, we were raring to go. We didn’t choose a spot and wait for deer to move, we moved them. We made deer drives from morning ’til sunset, often sliding and slipping along the steep hillsides of the canyon’s walls. If older members were present, they did most of the standing, and we younger members did not care as long as someone was seeing deer.
The results were usually good, as we shot a good number of deer those years. Youthful exuberance produced excellent results.
Nowadays, with fewer and fewer youth to support deer drives, the aging hunters at camps basically still hunt for a day or two or three, then close camp and head home. In fact, some camps have membership so old that they no longer even open camps for deer season.
If, indeed, deer numbers are increasing, the decline in active deer camps with rigorous young members is part of the cause for the mixed reports I’ve heard. This a path all hunters should not want to be traveling.