Some thoughts about 2020 rifle deer season in Pennsylvania
I did not shoot a buck this year, however, unlike some of my fellow hunters, I won’t blame that on the Pennsylvania Game Commission. It was my fault, or just the realization that every hunter doesn’t get a buck every year. I harvested an 8-pointer last fall. Maybe 2020 just wasn’t my year.
Am I disappointed, sure, but I enjoyed a good number of days in the woods.
I hunted all or parts of eight days during the 14-day season. I could have hunted more, but I didn’t. As I said – it was my fault, because time spent afield certainly increases the odds of success.
I hunted on state game lands in Blair County, as a guest on a private lease in Clearfield County, but mostly on my own 35 acres in Centre County. I didn’t see a single deer on the opening day, but I saw deer during most of the other days – and this included three bucks.
A friend of mine posted on social media about the low number of shots that he heard on the opening day compared to the “good old days.” He attributed fewer shots to fewer hunters, but mostly to fewer deer. A few people responded with things like, “I didn’t hear many shots, but I got a nice 9-point. Which is more important?”
However, not surprisingly, most of the responders agreed that it was a lack of deer. Of course, it was the Game Commission’s fault.
My brother also harvested a nice 8-pointer in the fall 2019, but did not get a deer in 2020. He didn’t see many deer, either. Number of shots?
“It sounded like a war on the opening morning,” were his exact words. Oddly, both my brother and the social media poster hunted in the same general area – and my bother hunted on state game lands, while the poster hunted on private property.
The number of shots that a hunter hears on the opening day is interesting, but holds little statistical value. There are just too many variables. The atmospheric conditions on any given day greatly influences how far sound travels – and therefore the number of shots heard. Can my friend hear as well now as he could in the 1970s? I know that I can’t. He probably can’t, either.
How many shots did I hear? I had a notebook with me and actually recorded the shots that I heard. There were 31 shots between 7 and 8 a.m. I heard 24 shots between 8 and 9. Thirteen shots echoed through the hollow between 9 and 10, and six shots between 10 and 11 o’clock.
How did that compare to other years or what did it mean? Absolutely nothing.
Why might my friend have heard fewer shots?
Atmosphere, his hearing ability as a 65+-year-old – of course these might be factors. But there are three factors that are not age or weather dependent.
- There are a couple hundred thousand fewer hunters now, compared to then. I think that counts for more than a few shots.
- Another factor that my friend forgot was that in 2020, about 35% of the deer were harvested by archers earlier in the fall. Back in the early 1970s, that might have been 1 or 2%. Afterall, compound bows were first legalized in 1973.
- Finally, few hunters do much moving anymore. Moving hunters push deer and create shooting opportunities. Most of the places that I used to still hunt on private land are now posted. They were not in 1972.
Count the shots, and complain if you want. There are plenty of deer where I live in western Centre County. Whether I see one during the season or not is my problem, not the Game Commission’s.