The first day of deer season may not be a national holiday, but it is definitely a Pennsylvania holiday.
This year, the Pennsylvania Game Commission expects about 750,000 hunters to take to the state game lands, a commission release said, from the most junior, first-timers to time-worn riflemen.
Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said the pieces are in place for an exceptional season, from deer populations rising to an increased number of hunters.
“Obviously, so much of what makes the firearms deer season and its opening day so special is the tradition behind it,” Hough said in the release. “Families and friends make new memories together, and might relive some old ones, during this time.”
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For local hunters, getting that buck, especially on the first day, can be the highlight of the season.
Bryant Shoemaker, 17, of Philipsburg, scored himself an eight-point buck Monday afternoon in Clearfield County, besting many of the other hunters who set out that day.
The Philipsburg-Osceola Area High School student said he went out at about 6 a.m. but didn’t see anything for the first few hours. Sitting in his tree stand, the rain wasn’t much of a bother.
A few does passed him after a few hours, but at about noon he spotted his buck, he said. A broad side shot from about 50 yards with his 7 mm-08 rifle snagged him his prize.
“I haven’t gotten a kill since I was 13,” Shoemaker said. His effort Monday will be his only for the season as he has no plans on hunting for the rest of the season.
Monday tended to be on the warm side for a December morning, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s early on, according to AccuWeather. Warm temperatures and rain can have positive and negative effects on a hunter’s success, Pennsylvania Game News Associate Editor Joe Kosack said.
“The wetness ... allows hunters and deer to sneak around much more quietly,” he said in an email. “More importantly, if it’s warm enough to rain, it’s more comfortable for hunters to sit tight. If and when they do, deer do the same thing.”
A winter weather advisory is in effect from Tuesday to Wednesday morning, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Elyse Hagner. The temperature steadily fell throughout Monday to warnings of sleet, snow and freezing rain.
Shoemaker said his deer head will be mounted, and the rest turned into deer jerky. For butcher shops, the number of deer is expected to increase over the week.
“We had a few drop-offs this morning, nothing over abundant,” said Kathy Gummo, of Gummo’s Butcher Shop in Port Matilda. “We’ll start the process tomorrow.”
The number of deer brought in varies depending on the weather, she said. Saturday will be the busiest because more people are not working and out hunting.
It takes about an hour or two to process a deer, she said. The shop offers a full range of services, from skinning to cutting to wrapping.
This season, the Game Commission is warning hunters of chronic wasting disease, which has been detected in some areas of Pennsylvania. Although Centre County has not been listed as a disease-management area, neighboring Huntingdon and Clearfield counties are listed.