Anticipation has been building all year. It’s November and that means the start of firearms buck season. Buck season? Yes, for the first time in a decade, Wildlife Management Unit 2A in southwestern Pennsylvania, will have a 5-day buck season, beginning November 28, followed by a 7-day concurrent buck and doe season. In sportsmen’s terms, it is known as a split season.
The goal of the game commission’s biologists is to stabilize the herd population in 2A. But a study done by Dr. Chris Rosenberry, the commission’s chief deer biologist, indicates that WMUs with a split season had a 20 percent reduction in the doe harvest. In order to compensate for that, the game commission increased the antlerless license allocation in 2A to 65,000, the highest allocation ever in this WMU.
But there is a concern that all the antlerless licenses may not sell out. In the past decade, WMU 2A has been the last rural WMU to sell-out, indicating that the market is already saturated. If licenses are not sold and used, and the doe harvest decreases, the result could be an increase in the deer population in 2A. Overpopulation is always followed by habitat degradation.
Biologists believe it is much easier to grow the deer herd than it is to reduce it. It generally takes the selling of four antlerless licenses to harvest one doe. In other words, the goal of stabilization may not be met.
In the past, the game commission board stated that a split season would result in hunters seeing more deer. But Rosenberry’s study concluded that hunters didn’t see more deer and weren’t satisfied with the number of deer they did see.
A bigger concern is hunting opportunity in a split season. Junior hunters in many schools have the first day of firearms season off, and they take advantage of the concurrent season. Now, they can only harvest a buck on their day off from school, a restriction they aren’t accustomed to. By the time the doe season opens on the first Saturday, the pressured deer should be holding tight and/or completely nocturnal. So the chances of harvesting a deer are somewhat diminished. It’s a good thing that luck is also a factor of hunter success.
The concurrent season seems popular with adults too, many of whom have limited days to hunt. Now, they must remind themselves to not harvest a doe until the first Saturday of the season. Some non-resident hunters have also expressed disappointment in not being able to harvest a doe on the first day. Anything that takes away hunter opportunity is not a good regulation.
In addition to a change in the season lengths, the antler restriction has also changed. The old restriction was four points on at least one side. Now, the restriction is three points off the main beam, not counting the brow tines. For a more detailed explanation, check out page 53 of the “Hunting & Trapping Digest” or visit www.pgc.state.pa.us.
Regarding the mentored youth hunt, youth can harvest up to two antlerless deer. They can harvest one during antlerless seasons by using the mentor’s tag, and they can harvest one (or a buck) during the late flintlock season, with the mentor’s proper unused license.
The changes this year showcase how important it is for hunters to read the “Digest” every year to see what the season and bag limits are. Recently, fall turkey seasons and bear seasons have also changed. This year, bobcat season is also drastically different.
While reading the “Digest”, be sure to check out the series of great articles that comprise the “Wildlife Annual 2011-12”. Articles feature deer, woodcock & grouse, fisher, bobcat, waterfowl, black bear, wildlife violation changes, oil and gas leasing, and the National Archery in the Schools Program.
Besides knowing your target and what is beyond, it is good to brush up on and know the regulations too. Have fun and be safe during the hunting seasons. — Roxane Palone