Uncertainty with new weekend opening of Pennsylvania gun deer season
Where I live, there is little in the way of state game lands for hunters to try their luck. There are a few scattered parcels with small acreage to each, certainly nothing to be considered large. The exception to that would be the sizeable State Game Land 280 that surrounds Blue Marsh Lake, with its 2,732 acres. Mostly, the hunting in my home area is accomplished on private property.
Having not yet taken any shots at whitetails during archery season, I hunted the opening Saturday of the gun season. I stayed tree-bound the entire time of legal hours, which seemed easy as the weather was unusually mild. Add the fact that many deer were crossing my vision at various moments throughout the day, it made staying aloft an undemanding task. I never took a shot, but in truth I had numerous chances that I left pass because I believe I may still have an opportunity to tag a large buck I saw in a prior archery-hunting episode.
I skipped hunting the next day and instead chose to take a drive to see just how many hunters were taking advantage of the novel Sunday of legal hunting for deer that was now offered to them.
I circled a huge swath of private land where I know hunters hunt. I saw two vehicles the entire trip, where usually one could assume at least up to 20 trucks and cars could easily be seen on a normal day of the early gun season.
I attributed the scarcity of hunters on private property using this new Sunday hunting day to the same reason I chose not to hunt that day — we simply did not want to bother the land owners with the burden of filling out some sort of required form that had to be signed, and also list a phone number for Game Commission contact if needed. I believe — as do others I’ve talked with — that the land owners would be put off with this constraint, and I certainly did not want to cause any friction in any form with a land owner.
Of course, there is a huge amount of public land across Pennsylvania where deer hunters can visit without the need of a signed permit, and this new Sunday of hunting may have suited them just fine.
I’ve spoken with friends and family who visited public hunting land in Schuylkill, Centre and Clearfield counties, the Potter/Tioga county line and the Cross Forks section of Potter County. In every case, they thought the Sunday hunting turnout was light at best, but also said they found the opener on Saturday to be light also, with little in the way of shooting and the hunters that do the shooting.
One friend I spoke with said that he traveled Route 6 on the opening day from Wellsboro to Coudersport, and said there were not near the number of vehicles one would usually see parked along that highway on the first day. He added that a good number of the vehicles he did see carried New York state license plates, probably just visiting for the day.
My friends and I all believe the COVID-19 virus was responsible for this shortage of hunter participation. Most of these friends commented that many camps they passed were simply empty, or at best, had few vehicles parked nearby. Certainly nothing like a normal year.
Tallies of harvested whitetails from the Pennsylvania Game Commission will ultimately reveal just how much hunters took advantage of the changes the agency has made for deer hunting in rifle season over the past few years, including the added to hunt. But it sure seems a safe bet that the novel coronavirus will play a part in this year’s rifle season and alter how the Game Commission may judge the results of those changes.