Explore The Outdoors: Saturday Opener to Deer Season a Positive Change

| April 28, 2019

Finally! After nearly 60 years of the first day of rifle deer season opening the Monday after Thanksgiving, the Pa. Game Commission recently approved a change to make the gun opener the Saturday after the holiday.

I’ve been a proponent of this for years and for many reasons.

It’s not quite as easy for the working class to take time off from work, so this helps. It also aids young hunters who live in school districts that offer Monday off for the deer opener. Certainly, most area school districts in our region still do provide the day off, but not all of them across Pennsylvania.

I’ve heard the complaints – ruining the tradition, disrupting travel on the holiday, disturbing farmers and even disrupting hikers and dog walkers.

Hikers and dog walkers can walk into a big box store, spend a few dollars and walk out with an orange hat and vest that they can wear while they hike.

I’m definitely not against hikers, I do plenty of it myself, but they have more than just two weeks to enjoy nature.

Farmers have the power to control who accesses their land and when. If they choose to keep their property closed to deer hunting on that Saturday, so be it. Many farmers I’ve known want hunters on their land to make sure the deer population is kept at reasonable numbers because of the havoc they can wreak on crops.

In terms of tradition and hunters that go to camp, I can appreciate it because it’s been a big part of my life at different times. But more and more hunters are staying home to hunt because more deer are found in semi-urban areas than ever before.

If it’s a matter of hunters getting to camp and beginning preparations, there are several weekends that occur before the holiday where they can get there to cut wood and make sure everything is ready to go.

I realize that many people spend time with their families on that weekend, but for me and many others, given the choice between that and a day in the woods, the decision is an easy one for me!

I don’t know if this change will mean any more hunters in Penn’s Woods, but it’s time to give it a chance.

Hunter numbers have decreased since the state sold a record 1.1 million licenses in 1982 to about 900,000 now. But the state’s population in our part of the world has also dropped in most counties where hunting remains a strong tradition.

Spring Gobbler Season Underway

Spring gobbler season began Saturday, and state wildlife experts are typically predicting a banner year.

I recall my first season when Granddad Bochert and I listened to a gobbler and some hens making their respective sounds in a deep, forested hollow where he spent many days hunting.

I wasn’t sure at first why we didn’t try harder to call that gobbler in, but he knew that trying to bring a tom in while he had all those hens in his presence was a lost proposition.

I spent many years chasing gobblers without tagging a bird, but any time I heard a gobbler sound off the thrill of it made it a success.

When I finished college in 1992, I really jumped into gobbler hunting. I worked nights and had plenty of time to hunt. Then, there was an abundance of birds and not many hunters were taking vacation time to hunt spring gobblers.

It wasn’t uncommon for me to be in the woods, whether at first light or hours later, that I could hear gobblers rattling away.

One of the more memorable times was when I called a long beard into range after talking to him for more than an hour and trying to outmaneuver him. His gobbling was nearly non-stop.

At the time, I was hunting with a shotgun that wasn’t camouflaged. As I drew a bead on him, he evidently caught the glint of sun off the barrel and was gone before I never knew it.

The initial disappointment was soon forgotten as I reveled in the experience of watching one of nature’s most thrilling exhibitions.

Gobbler hunting soon became more difficult because too many hunters spent too much time calling birds in before the season. Those spooked birds became much more call-shy.

This has been reflected in spring gobbler hunter numbers dropping over the last few years, but wildlife biologists are predicting a good year.

The birds are there, but from my experience you have to walk further to hunt birds that haven’t been called to as much and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Well, be safe and good luck!

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