Seasons in Pennsylvania saw harvest of 343,110 deer

The Pennsylvania Game Commission reported that, in the state’s 2012-13 seasons, hunters harvested an estimated 343,110 deer, which is an increase of about two percent from the previous seasons’ harvest of 336,200.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) uses a report card registration system for hunters to report the harvest of each white-tailed deer in combination with field-checked deer to estimate reporting rates of both antlered and antlerless in each of the commonwealth’s deer management units (DMU). Overall harvests are broken down into archery and muzzleloader harvests, not because these numbers are used for deer management purposes, but because the public requests them. The overall removal of deer from a population during all hunting seasons is the parameter of greatest management interest. Whether a deer was harvested with a bow, muzzleloader, or rifle has limited value for management recommendations. Based on an evaluation of Pennsylvania’s harvest estimates, attempting to calculate archery and muzzleloader harvests based on report cards and reporting rates results in biased numbers, because hunters during the October seasons (archery, early muzzleloader, and October rifle) report deer harvests at a higher rate than hunters during the regular firearms season. However, the effect on the overall harvest estimate is minimal because most deer are harvested during the regular firearms season.

Wildlife Management Units are designed to improve wildlife management and, at the same time, simplify hunting and trapping regulations. The units are being used to manage all game, except elk, waterfowl and other migratory game birds. The units are based on land use/habitat, human density, public/private land ownership, recognizable physical features, such as major roads and rivers, and land use practices, such as agriculture, timber and development.

Harvest estimates are based on more than 25,000 deer checked by Game Commission personnel and more than 100,000 harvest reports submitted by successful hunters.

Comparisons between the current year’s harvest and historic antlered harvests often do not consider hunter numbers. In 1986, there were 1,000,000 deer hunters in Pennsylvania. Today, there are around 700,000 deer hunters. As a result, one cannot compare antlered harvest totals to the past without including the fact that there are fewer hunters hunting deer. When properly corrected by the number of hunters, success rates are comparable.

Age structure of this year’s harvest was 49 percent 1.5 year old bucks and 51 percent 2.5 year old and older bucks.

This year’s antlered harvest is slightly above the average harvest since 2005 when efforts began to stabilize deer populations in most of the state. Antlerless hunter success rates remained at approximately a quarter of all antlerless licenses used to harvest an antlerless deer.

Some, if not many hunters don’t believe the numbers. Gary Wert, of Grizzly Gary’s had a number of colorful opinions. He said “I am skeptical, to say the least. I appreciate the work done (by the various commissions and organizations), but when you see the empty camps and lack of hunters, I mean come on. It’s bullpoopy. Ten years ago, the hotels and motels were full (with out of town hunters), but now they aren’t coming because there’s no deer.”

The Warren County WMUs are 1B west of Route 62, north of Route 6, and west of Route 27, and includes Erie and portions of Crawford and Venango; and 2F which is the remaining part of Warren County, all of Forest County and portions of Venango, Clarion, Jefferson, Elk, and McKean Counties.

The game commission’s harvest estimates show an increase of 17 percent of both antlered and antlerless when compared to 2011 in 1B (for a total of 7,000 and 11,100 respectively), and a 31 percent increase of antlered and a 9 percent decrease of antlerless in 2F from 2011 (7,100 and 6,100 respectively).