It’s the start of a new year, which is typically a time when people take stock of the important things in life.
And so I put the question to you deer-hunting readers out there: What do you think of the current state of Pennsylvania’s deer hunting?
I’m having difficulty getting an accurate pulse on this.
I’ve been writing about deer hunting in this state long enough to know that there always is a group of hunters who are dissatisfied with things here.
Not enough deer. Too many deer. Not enough big deer. Not enough time or tags. Too much time or tags. Sunday hunting. No Sunday hunting. Crossbows. Posted land. Monday opener. Saturday opener. Chronic wasting disease.
The reasons people gripe about deer hunting in Pennsylvania are many. They always have been.
Social media these days provide many, many opportunities for hunters to offer their views for all to see immediately, compared to 20 years ago.
I follow many sites and pages dedicated to Pennsylvania hunting, and check them regularly to get a sense of how hunters feel about the state of deer hunting here.
Lately, my sense is that there is a growing wave of negativity out there.
It’s not unusual for the negative folks to be the loudest voices in debates on any subject – including deer hunting. So I recognize the possibility that I’m just hearing those voices over others.
But I feel like I’m seeing more negativity - and a more visceral negativity - than I’ve noticed in the past. Some people get downright angry when they talk about Pennsylvania deer hunting these days.
Is my sense accurate?
There’s a closed group on Facebook called Hunting Pennsylvania that I’m a member of, where ideas and opinions pertaining to deer hunting here are shared daily this time of year.
Man, the negativity there is rampant.
But how prevalent across the hunting community is that negativity?
I saw lots of posts from hunters saying the crowds they saw this past firearms deer season were comparatively very slim. I certainly saw far fewer hunters, and heard less shooting, than I normally do.
Whether hunters were out or not, I don’t know, but I know they bought hunting licenses.
From June through Dec. 29, hunters bought 3,303 more licenses this year than during the same period last year – an increase of .39 percent.
Maybe they didn’t hunt gun season, but there was no dip in licensed hunters this fall.
Antlerless deer licenses did not sell out this year. As of last week, WMU 2A had 2,390 tags left, WMU 2B had 9,307 left, WMU 4A had 10,743 left, and WMU 5B had 645 left.
I am beyond amazed that WMU 5B didn’t sell out. This unit covers all but a tiny sliver of Lancaster County, nearly all of York County, and parts of Adams, Dauphin, Lebanon, Berks and Chester counties.
There certainly are enough hunters in this area to buy up 67,000 doe tags. Why didn’t they sell out?
WMU 4A’s 10,743 unsold tags equals 26 percent of that unit’s total allocation of 41,000 for this year.
The unit covers parts of Franklin, Fulton, Bedford, Huntingdon and Blain counties – prime deer hunting counties. But the unit sold only three quarters of its doe tags.
CWD concerns led the Game Commission to boost WMU 4A’s doe-tag allocation by a total of 11,000 over the past two years, but the total sold for the unit this year is only 257 more than the allocation from 2017.
So the agency increased the tags twice to kill more deer, but hunters didn’t buy them. Why not?
More changes coming?
According to recent reports published by Everybody Adventures, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is weighing more tweaks to the state’s deer hunting in 2020, just one year after introducing the Saturday start to the firearms season that raised a real ruckus.
The article states that agency biologists want to see a return to two full weeks of concurrent buck and doe hunting statewide – something we haven’t seen in several years.
This move, the article states, would give hunters more time to try to fill their doe tags.
The Game Commission also is expected to consider in the coming weeks whether to allow hunters to shoot multiple deer at one time – assuming they have the tags to do so - before being required to put tags on any of the deer, according to Everybody Adventures.
This has been allowed in the Special Regulations Area for decades, but it’s been outlawed in the rest of the state for at least 10 years.
Then there’s the issue of Sunday hunting. According to a state law passed last month, the Game Commission will be authorized to allow hunting on one Sunday during the archery deer season, one Sunday during the firearms deer season and one Sunday of the agency’s choosing.
Lastly, we have the Game Commission’s massive proposal for attacking CWD in the state, which calls for a litany of season extensions and changes, as well as the liberalization of many rules and tag allocations, in those area where the disease is found.
That plan is currently being circulated across the state for input from hunters, farmers, landowners and other interested parties.
Send me your opinions
Is tweaking our deer seasons on a seemingly regular basis a good thing for deer hunting in Pennsylvania?
Are hunters happy with the current state and direction of our deer hunting in Pennsylvania?
I want to hear from you. And since I know I will get lots of negative comments, I want to implore those who are happy with things to send me your comments. I don’t want your voices to be drowned out.
Shoot me an email at PREILLY@LNPNEWS.COM and share your thoughts.