Break out all the clichés about good things coming to those who wait. Or, for Pennsylvania's deer hunters, maybe not, as they are just happy the wait is nearly over for the opening of the two-week statewide firearms season, Monday, Dec. 2.
This is the latest opener for the statewide firearms deer season, which ends Saturday, Dec. 14, in years because of the way the calendar falls this year. With the opening day of the season held the Monday following Thanksgiving, the season gets underway a week later than it does in some years.
Statewide hunters are likely to find the wait well worth it based upon information compiled by the Pennsylvania Game Commission Deer Section team headed by biologist Chris Rosenberry. It has been tracking deer populations and found them stable or increasing in nearly all of the state's 23 Wildlife Management Units, which means another good opportunity awaits the approximate 750,000 hunters expected to take to deer woods opening day and for those hunting during the remainder of the season.
"Opening day of the firearms deer season is something most hunters look forward to all year, and waiting out those few extra days when the season falls late like this can test one's patience," PGC executive director Carl Roe said. "By 7 a.m. opening Monday the wait all across Pennsylvania will be over, and tens of thousands of lasting memories will be made in the hours, days and weeks that follow."
While deer populations are being tracked as stable or increasing in most of the state, Rosenberry said many other factors influence deer hunting. Availability of food sources in an area plays a role in the deer taken at a local level.
"This year has produced a spotty acorn crop statewide," PGC chief forester Dave Gustafson said. "A late spring frost affected white oaks and chestnut oaks, and a cold and wet spring in 2012 affected red oaks, which take two years to produce.
"Those conditions have combined to limit acorn availability in many areas, but that's not to say there aren't acorns to be found. In some cases, though, it can take some work to find them. Meanwhile, soft-mast and fruit crops have been good this year statewide, and there are areas this year where food has appeared more plentiful in the low-hanging parts of valleys."
Rosenberry said while finding food sources can be the key to hunting success, weather can also influence hunter success. He said it is unlikely the late start will play much of a role.
"Timing of deer-hunting seasons in relation to the deer's breeding season, commonly referred to as the rut, can have an impact," Rosenberry said. "Other factors typically are more important, as evidenced by deer harvests in different seasons with either early or late starts.
"Hunters taking part in the season have a sizeable chance of taking home a trophy. A good crop of adult bucks is produced each year statewide, and last year's harvest resulted in about 200 new entries into "Pennsylvania's Big Game Records Program," which recognizes exceptional whitetails, bears and elk.
With this year's firearms deer season extending to mid-December there may be more opportunity to hunt in the snow, which aids in tracking and seeing deer. Also, Roe said hunting license sales also are slightly ahead of their 2012 pace and adds to the potential for what he called an "outstanding" deer season.
"Considering deer and hunter numbers both are good, the pieces are in place for a great season," Roe said. "For those hunters who take their "buck of a lifetime" this year, it will be the best season ever.
"That chance lies in store for the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who will take part in the upcoming deer seasons. I hope each of them soon discovers that, indeed, good things come to those who wait."