Sunday, November 25, 2012

PA Deer Season: Recalling The Past

Mature Whitetail Buck

 As Thanksgiving week comes to an end, the human population of Pennsylvania's rural areas reaches a yearly high with a large influx of deer hunters anticipating the opening of rifle deer season on Monday.  The air resounds with rifle shots, as hunters sight their rifles in and at night spotlights flicker in the air and across the fields and woodlands as hunters scout for whitetails by use of artificial light.  Persons may spotlight for deer until 11:00 p.m., but may not posses firearms while doing so, may not cast the rays of lights on buildings or livestock, and may not attempt to kill a deer in such a manner.  They are not allowed to spotlight during rifle deer season.The taking of wildlife by use of artificial light is commonly known as "jacklighting"and is a common violation.

Deer Killed by "Jacklighters"
PGC Officer With Rifle Seized From Jacklighters
 During my years as a Deputy Conservation Officer for the PGC, this was the "busy" period of the year and Thanksgiving week usually brought a lot of law enforcement work dealing with persons who couldn't wait until deer season to kill a deer.  There was seldom a year went by that several violators were not apprehended killing deer while spotlighting during Thanksgiving week.  Once deer season came in, the most common offenses were failure to tag a harvested animal as required by law, hunting over bait, hunting by use of motorized vehicle, and various safety related violations.

Violator Prepares To Shoot Deer From Vehicle With Modern Rifle In Blackpowder  Season
Things have really changed since I began hunting in the mid-1960s.  At that time there was two weeks of bucks only season, followed by two or three days of artlessness deer season.  By the time I quit hunting in 1997 or 1998, the taking of antlerless deer had been liberalized to a certain extent, with bonus tags being issued in many years.

2000 saw the introduction of a three day flintlock season for antlerless deer , which was increased to a full week the following year. In addition a three day rifle antlerless season was established for junior and senior hunters. disabled persons, and active duty military.

Things really changed with the implementation of concurrent buck and doe season in 2001 and antler restrictions in 2002. The early flintlock season was expanded to include the use of in-line muzzle loaders that year as well.   Since then deer numbers have plummeted in many parts of the state as has the number of hunters, but even with that the yearly deer kill is quite large.

While the "deer wars" had been going on to a certain extent for years, this marked the period that they accelerated to the heights of the recent past.  The controversy continues to this day with some claiming the herd is still out of control and damaging the environment, while others firmly believe that deer numbers are too low and the lack of deer is leading to the death of the sport of hunting.

Whatever the truth of the matter, it seems The Pennsylvania Game Commission has lost the hearts and minds of a significant portion of the hunting public.


Dale said...

You have hit on all the ugly memories that at this point have nearly brought me to the point of giving up the hunting sport. I am sure that those that committed the crimes you touched on will soon be the only so called Pennsylvania Sportsmen left.

Linda Gross said...

The phrase "sport of hunting" brought to mind the hunting of something other than deer. We have a friend whose husband took his dogs out to hunt pheasant. A pheasant was found, in weeds. The friend's husband was teaching his dogs to chase the pheasant out of the weeds. The pheasant wouldn't fly out of the weeds. The friend's husband could have just shot the pheasant in the weeds, but that would have not been sporting. It is sporting to shoot the pheasant, while in flight. The friend's husband came home empty handed.

Linda Gross said...

P.S. LOVE that first photograph!

Jim Borden said...

Very good summary of what has happened with the Pa deer hunt. Nice images really compliment the story.

Lindsjö taxar said...

Interesting reading and great pictures.

Brendan Burger said...

Very good info. and pics. Great job at catching poachers. I'm sure the game commission is missing you. I'm missing our times together looking at the ELK.

Willard said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting on all of the posts, Brendan.

I really enjoyed those President Day trips for elk and all of the good times we had up there. It was priceless when Bob A. was with us and told all of those stories--I think you were one some of the same ones he was.