Hunters can expect decent deer numbers in most areas of the northeast this season, but that's not all.
They can also expect a decent chance at a big buck.
Pennsylvania Game Commission spokesman Bill Williams said antler size has continued to improve since the onset of antler restrictions in 2002.
That means more bucks are living to an older age, giving them more time to get bigger.
Over the last few years we've been seeing bigger racks on deer reaching higher age classes, Williams said. This year our officers are reporting a bumper crop of acorns, and that also has something to do with it.
Preliminary results from archery season bode well for the upcoming two-week rifle season.
Taxidermist Scott Gulliver of Hollenback Township said there have been a few 150-class bucks brought to his shop this year.
Kevin Naugle, who owns a processing shop in Lehman Township, said the racks and body weights on many archery bucks have been unbelievable.
With the easy winter last year and the abundance of mast this fall, the deer are big and healthy, Naugle said. Last year it rained on the first day in this area, so that saved a lot of deer as well.
Bear Creek Village resident Britt Trumbower agrees that there are plenty of big bucks in the area, and he has the photographic proof to back it up.
Trail cameras that he put out in the 350-acre property where his group hunts have captured thousands of images. Half of the bucks caught on the cameras that were easy to see, Trumbower said, he estimates to be in the two-and-a-half year range.
The ratio of bucks to does is also faring well, Trumbower said.
Where we hunt our ratio is close to one to one. Probably no more than one to one-and-a-half, he said. We pass up more bucks than we shoot and try to keep an eye on our ratio.
New this year is a provision that allows mentored youth hunters to harvest an antlerless deer where they are in season. That has resulted in a 13 percent increase in the sale of mentored youth permits, Williams said.
The program allows a hunter under the age of 12 to harvest a buck or a doe (where in season) while accompanied by a licensed mentor hunter over the age of 21. The adult hunter can transfer one antlerless license to the youth, who must stay within arm's reach of the mentor.
It provides youth an early one-on-one, hands-on hunting experience, Williams said.
With the season a week away, Williams said his office has been busy fielding calls from hunters asking questions or reporting poaching violations. It's the calm before the storm for the region office.
On the first day it's a highly-charged environment here. The phones ring all day long and the Wildlife Conservation Officers are working from before daybreak to well after dark.
We all get excited about it though. It's a busy two weeks and it's what we signed up for.
• The two-week firearms deer season opens on Nov. 26 and continues to Dec. 8. The season is concurrent for antlered and antlerless deer for both weeks in WMU's 1A, 1B, 2B, 3A, 3D, 4A, 4C, 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D. From Nov. 26 to 30, antlered deer only are legal in WMU's 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3B, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E, followed by a concurrent season from Dec. 1 to 8.
• Hunters must wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined at all times while afield during the seasons. They also are advised that it's illegal to hunt, chase or disturb deer within 150 yards of any occupied building without the occupant's permission if they are using a firearm, or 50 yards if they are using a bow or crossbow.
• Licenses do not have to be displayed this year.
• All hunters who take a deer must fill out their harvest tag and attach it to the deer's ear before moving the carcass. The tag can be secured to the base of the ear with a string drawn very tightly, if the hunter plans to have the deer mounted. Cutting a slit in the ear to attach the tag will require additional work by a taxidermist.
- The Pennsylvania Game Commission Northeast Region Office will be open from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24, to accommodate persons wishing to purchase a hunting license.
There is an annual rush to purchase general hunting licenses just prior to the regular firearms deer season, region director Dan Figured said. We try to accommodate the increase in demand by offering additional office hours for license sales.
Normal business hours of the Northeast Region Office are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The office is located at 3917 Memorial Highway in Dallas.