2014 Deer Forecast November 19, 2014 Pennsylvania, PGC News

Pennsylvania Deer Population, Management News and Information Archive

Deer forecast

While deer populations are being tracked as stable or increasing in most of the state, many other factors influence deer hunting, said Chris Rosenberry, who supervises the Game Commission’s deer and elk section.  The availability of food sources in an area plays a role in the deer harvest at a local level, he said.  This has been a banner year for mast crops in much of the state, said Dave Gustafson, the Game Commission’s chief forester.

Production of soft mast crops, such as apples, berries and grapes, is very good this year, Gustafson said.  Meanwhile, he said, the availability of acorns statewide is good to great, with some areas –particularly in southcentral Pennsylvania – reporting bumper crops of red-oak acorns. Chestnut oaks and white oaks also are widely available, Gustafson said.


The southwestern part of the state seems to be the only exception, with the acorn crop there being spotty – abundant in some areas, absent in others, he said.  


Some areas of the northcentral region also are reporting good beechnut crops this year, Gustafson said.  “Although not widely distributed, these can be key food sources that are highly desirable for deer, as well as bear,” Gustafson said.  Just what the abundance of mast will mean for deer hunters remains to be seen.  While finding those food sources can be key to hunting success, if food is available everywhere, deer don’t need to move to find it. Rosenberry said that when there is a good acorn crop, deer can become less visible because they might not as regularly frequent fields and forest openings.


What might bode well for hunters this year is their strength in numbers. License sales are trending slightly ahead of their pace from last season, and each year about 750,000 hunters participate in the opening day of deer season.  And the mere presence of hunters increases deer sightings for more hunters overall.  One thing hunters can do to increase their chances of success is to hunt longer into the day, Rosenberry said.


As part of an ongoing project, the Game Commission has placed GPS collars on several deer in different areas to study deer movements and other behaviors. New findings from the ongoing research into deer movements show that the middle of the day holds perhaps the best chances for seeing deer.

“Pack a lunch and stay on stand through lunchtime,” Roseberry advised. “You may have the best lunch date ever.”

Hough said that while the outcome of any hunt never is certain, good times afield await those who take part.

“There’s always the opportunity to take the buck of a lifetime during the firearms deer season, and hundreds if not thousands of Pennsylvanians do that each year,” Hough said. “But for many hunters, the opportunity to spend time afield with friends and family and celebrate a great tradition is just as important, and I consider them the most fortunate hunters of all.



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