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Think about bowhunting in WMU 5C

LANDIS VALLEY - Most deer hunters are steadfast to the point of stubbornness in following family traditions during Pennsylvania's statewide firearms season, which ends a week from today, Saturday, Dec. 13.

Often the same woods and farms have been hunted for generations by family members and their friends regardless of decreasing success rates. Many of these hunters would no sooner consider breaking tradition by finding a new area to hunt than they would think of hunting with any sporting arm other than their favorite firearm.That firearm can be anything from the newest stainless-steel, synthetic-stock model mounted with optics to a lever-action whose only improvement is the addition of a peep sight since first used 100 years ago. For the latter it only adds to the tradition, making giving up one's favorite hunting location and rifle even more unthinkable.Well, for those looking to change their luck, it may be time for a change of thinking. For those deer hunters willing to travel, some of the best opportunities are to be had just a relatively short drive away in the Special Regulations Area of Wildlife Management Unit 5C.Residential communities now dominate areas that were once patches of woods and marshes and these developments continue at a steady pace. Initially, this construction displaced the deer that had used the land as a safe haven, but eventually the deer have found their way back to their former home territory and are doing very well adapting to backyard wood lots and supplementing their diet on landscaping plants, fruit trees and gardens.Even worse than the expense of replacing plants, tree and gardens is the potential danger of vehicle damage caused by deer. Such accidents present the very real chance of bodily injury or a fatality.For these reasons, even some homeowners who may fit the anti-hunting stereotype many times will give permission to hunt or gain access to some prime deer habitat. First and foremost, however, explain that the deer hunting will be done - regardless of the season - with bows.It is extremely unlikely that a hunter will be able to find a 150-yard safety zone, as required by the Pennsylvania Game Commission to hunt with firearms, from a building in any development. In the rare instances where it is possible to achieve this distance, a miss with a shotgun slug or muzzleloader roundball - let alone a jacketed bullet from a rifle or conical bullet from a muzzleloader - is a potential mishap waiting to happen.Opportunities to hunt deer in WMU 5C continue with additional dates following the close of the statewide late archery and flintlock muzzleloader seasons, which are Friday, Dec. 26, through Saturday, Jan. 10. In 5C these seasons reopen Monday, Jan. 12, and continue through Saturday, Jan. 24.Outdoors writer Mark Demko has been bowhunting for deer during both the archery and firearms seasons in WMU 5C and filling tags with regularity. While he does hunt some public land, most of his bucks have been taken in housing developments on land he has permission to hunt."Other than doing some flintlock hunting with friends after Christmas, I really don't hunt many places where I would consider it safe to use a rifle - including muzzleloaders," Demko said. "Even before crossbows were legalized for use in the regular archery deer seasons, they were legal in 5C, so I've been using one for years in both the archery and firearms seasons."Some of the places where I have permission to hunt border small patches of woods and this gives me the opportunity to use a portable, climbing treestand. Otherwise, I try to find natural cover to break up my silhouette and hunt from the ground."One of my favorite places to hunt is a small patch of woods behind two homes that is full of briar patches with deer trails. When I hunt in them, I make sure to spray myself with Scent-A-Way Earth Scent because some of the shots are less than 15 yards."Because deer feel secure in these areas, it is best to allow them to move naturally. Usually, aggressively calling and rattling - even during the rut - is counterproductive.

Urban deer such as this pair, left and center, are plentiful in and near many housing developments in the Special Regulations Area of Wildlife Management Unit 5C, but in order to meet safety regulations for hunting bows must be used rather than firearms.