The Game Commission has released its harvest figures for the deer season that just passed.
The harvest was up two percent from previous seasons with a harvest of 316,240 deer. That's 122,930 antlered deer, which they report is actually a 13 percent increase and 193,310 antlerless deer, which is a decrease of four percent from the 2009 harvest figure.
According to this report, the antlered harvest in WMU 4D was up 20 percent over recent past seasons. Antlerless harvest was down by 20 percent but, they say, that is because the number of antlerless licenses allocated last year were reduced so the desired effect was achieved.
A further breakdown in stats goes like this: In 2010 in WMU 4D there were 6300 bucks and 5900 does harvested. The Game Commission has its own system for estimating harvests in other areas and so here goes: In 2010,4900 bucks and 3800 does were taken with traditional firearms. Archers harvested 1,340 bucks and 910 does. Muzzleloaders took 61 bucks and 790 does.
While our thoughts this time of year are geared more toward trout and turkeys, thoughts of the state of the deer herd are never far from the hunter's mind.
Could this slight increase in harvest mean that Dr. Alt's long-ago proclamation that the deer herd needed to be trimmed to be in line with available food supplies be true?
Alt said that when habitat was allowed to rebound, the deer herd would also rebound. And that antler restrictions would result in larger-antlered bucks. That part of his predictions, at least, seems to have come true.
It's probably too early to tell because weather, license allocations and other factors affect an increase or decrease in any given year.
Whether or not the upward trend continues will be the telling factor.
The change for the upcoming seasons in 4 point WMU's is significant. If a hunter sees a buck with three clearly visible points he may shoot, assuming that there will be brow tines which would make it a 4-pointer.
I wonder, however, how long that will stand because it is just as hard for a hunter in 3-point areas to see a brow tines when deer are moving through the woods and under many other hunting conditions.
Will fork-horns be made legal then, in 3-point areas? I strongly wonder about that.
Last deer season, my hunting buddy saw a buck several times cross in the area he was watching from a deer stand. It had three visible points but never could he detect brow tines. On Saturday at noon, he decided to leave the stand and go home, a two-hour drive from Altoona.
He radioed me to tell me he was leaving. On impulse, I decided to spend the afternoon hours in that stand. I hiked to it and climbed up into it. Less than five minutes after I had settled into the stand, a deer emerged from the fenceline to the left of the stand and walked within five yards of the front of the stand.
The only reason I could see the brow points was because I was above it and could look down on it. I had to nearly stand myself on my head to get a shot. We believe that was the same buck my buddy saw several times at a distance and could not detect brow tines.
On such details hang the "luck" we need in deer season.
You still have time
Remember that if you are wanting a second spring gobbler license, now is the time to send for it. If, like me, you hunt turkeys in one or more parts of the state, perhaps with various people, it is great to have the opportunity to harvest a second bird.
Certainly, harvesting a second gobbler is no threat to the turkey population.
Also, now is the time to investigate the time and place of Hunter Education classes.
Youth day for spring gobblers this year is Saturday, April 23, so there is no time to waste for this. To register for a course in your area, visit the Game Commission's website - www.pgc.state.pa.us - and select education in the menu bar in the banner, then put your cursor on hunter education, and then click on class schedule and follow the instructions.