2015-09-26 / Outdoors

Bowhunters get first shot at deer herd

Bowhunters get the first shot at a Pennsylvania Wilds deer herd that appears healthy, fairly well-balanced and carrying a high proportion of large-antlered bucks.

Archery season opens on Saturday, Oct. 3, and will run for six weeks until Nov. 14. As the season progresses, the rut action will start slowly, and then begin to peak at the season’s end, making for some exciting hunting potential. All indications suggest that hunters should find good conditions afield this year.

As anyone who brings a historic perspective to the situation would confirm, deer numbers have been slowly creeping up from their modern-day low a decade or more ago.

Our whitetails made it through winter without too much stress. This has resulted in increased fawn survival this spring. It has also contributed to slightly larger racks. When bucks are nutritionally stressed, rack size suffers.

Restrictions imposed on hunters when it comes to antler sizes have definitely resulted in more mature, wide-racked bucks just about everywhere in our woods. They always seem to be more visible in August and September, but when archery season opens, they become elusive.


Archers are honing their skills with target practice and plotting their strategies as they follow a countdown to next Saturday’s deer season opener. Knowing whitetails’ movement patterns and locations of food supplies will boost hunters’ chances for success. Archers are honing their skills with target practice and plotting their strategies as they follow a countdown to next Saturday’s deer season opener. Knowing whitetails’ movement patterns and locations of food supplies will boost hunters’ chances for success. Early in the season, hunters should find the best hunting at food sources or along travel routes located between food sources and bedding areas. Look for the acorns. Deer will be seeking them out as they look to pack as many calories as possible into their bodies in preparation for winter.

The apple crop is not so good. Some areas missed frost damage and have good crops, but the majority of the region has very few apples. In areas where there are apples, this tasty fruit could be a key food source. Grown-up farms and old orchards make great archery stands when deer are feeding heavily on apples.

Where agricultural food sources are present, deer can be counted on to be feeding heavily. However, most of the activity occurs after dark. Hunters can monitor travel routes to these sites and catch deer at dusk as they stage in wooded areas adjacent to the fields.

Also, on many of our state forest areas, there have been food plots planted to improve habitat for elk. Deer also use these food plots heavily. During the first couple of weeks in archery season, they are still feeding heavily on clover and other forages, even when there is an abundance of acorns.

By mid-October these areas seem less productive. There is more activity in the woods, causing many bucks to become nocturnal when feeding in larger openings. Also, with the growing season slowing down, these forages do not pack the same high levels of nutrition that they did earlier.

Taking all these food sources into account, scouting is of utmost importance because the deer will be where the food is.

The refinement of equipment and the gradual evolution of a healthy lot of mature bucks in our woods combined with good locally heavy food sources should make for some good hunting conditions.

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During the next two weeks we should see the development of some beautiful autumn colors.

Red maples always seem to peak during the final days of September and the first week of October. Due to their prevalence in our forests and their stunning colors, they contribute more than any other tree species to our painted landscape.

Black gum, sassafras, and sumac trees all have brilliant fall colors, adding red, orange, and sometimes brilliant purple to our landscape. Aspen, hickories, sugar maple, and tulip poplar add stunning yellows.

This is a time of dramatic change in our landscape. The green is slowly fading into a myriad of colors. It is time to pause, take a deep breath, and enjoy what we have all around us.

And it should only get better in the coming weeks.

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