An estimated 750,000 hunters are expected to take to the woods and fields for Pennsylvania’s firearms deer season, which begins Monday and runs to Dec. 12.

To put it in perspective, that’s equal to nearly 6 percent of the state’s population of 12.8 million, or about half the population of Philadelphia.

Last year, hunters bagged 303,973 white-tail deer in Pennsylvania, including 119,260 bucks and 184,713 anterless deer.

But while many hunters dream of bagging a trophy buck, camaraderie with family and friends is also a key lure of the woods, R. Matthew Hough, executive director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said in a press release.

“For most hunters, opening day is as much about enjoying the company of family and friends and carrying on a rich tradition as it is about harvesting a deer, and that speaks volumes about why so many Pennsylvanians love to hunt,” Hough said.

Indeed, many schools here are closed today, as youths join parents and grandparents at favorite hunting spots. Among the 17 public school districts locally, only Warwick and Manheim Township will hold classes Monday.

According to AccuWeather, temperatures will drop into the 20s and low 30s across much of the state tonight, followed by partly sunny skies Monday, with afternoon highs in the 40s in most areas.

Last year's harvest of 303,973 deer was down about 14 percent from the 352,920 in 2013, when 134,280 bucks and 218,640 anterless deer were taken.

The deer population has been stable or increasing in each of the state’s 23 wildlife management units this year, the Game Commission reported this month. But it noted that local conditions, including food availability, can affect deer movement and hunting.

The 750,000 hunters taking part in deer season is equal to about 16 hunters for each of the state’s 46,000 square miles. But of course lots of areas will be more crowded than that because deer hunting doesn’t take place everywhere.

Despite the crowds, hunting has gotten much safer over the years, according to data kept by the Pennsylvania Game Commission for all types of hunting and weapons.

In the 1990s, Pennsylvania averaged 5.1 deaths and 94 injuries a year in hunting-related shooting incidents. In the 2000s, that dropped to an average of 2.6 deaths and 49 injuries per year. So far this decade, the state has averaged 2 deaths and 30 injuries per year.

Deer hunting accounts for about a third of the hunting-related shooting incidents, with small-game hunting and turkey hunting accounting for most of the rest.

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