Deer numbers about same
With the major portion of the deer hunting seasons now over, Lehigh Valley sportsmen may be wondering how it went. According to local deer processors and a taxidermist, the numbers are about the same as last year, perhaps a tad off.
While many nice, heavily tined bucks were taken, overall numbers appear to be down ever slightly.
At Frable's Deer Processing in Slatington, Jason Frable said their intake numbers are about the same as last season, with of course more antlerless deer brought in than antlered. And of the bucks brought in, there were lots of 6-pointers and 8-pointers. Frable said they didn't have a lot of small bucks and he attributes that to the antler restrictions that are in place. The largest field dressed buck they had weighed 130 pounds.
During my post rifle season interview last season, Frable believed that a change should be made to the season to bring back higher deer numbers. It was thought that Pennsylvania should go back to shortening the antlerless season like it was years ago (two days); and stop being able to take both species simultaneously; and stop issuing as many doe tags. It was added that there are also fewer hunters afield as there were a few years ago and many old timers quit hunting either because of age, or out of frustration.
At Lazarus Market in Whitehall, Grant Lazarus said this year's intake was about the same or maybe a few more than last season. Back in 2010 Bret Lazarus said they used to do about 1,000 deer a season but that year took in about 100. "The deer aren't here anymore. You can't keep killing three, four, five doe a year and expect to have deer. We even see it on our farm where we have hardly any crop damage," he opined.
Grant said that the average field dressed deer they took in weighed about 85 pounds but they also had a bunch of 150 pounders. Said Lazarus in response to the weight issue, " They're killing some deer that only weigh 35 pounds (small doe). An average yearling buck (for example) goes for around 125 pounds, but then the lighter does bring the average weight down.
As for how the season went, Lazarus recalls that a big gang up in Potter County saw one big buck but couldn't get a shot at it, but saw only one doe and shot it. He believes they won't have anything to hunt next year with few deer in the area. "They got to lay off these doe," said Lazarus.
According to Dennis Hartman at Hartman's' Butcher Shop in New Tripoli, their intake was about even as last year, perhaps a half dozen more, but nothing exceptional. "It's not to say it was a banner year," said Hartman. "I don't know if this mattered much, but the buck opener had a full moon and business was slow. But the first Saturday, after the full moon, saw an influx of deer being brought in.
As for the quality of deer, Hartman said they took in a lot of 8-pointers and a few 10s. But he noted that the deer were larger. "We had some nice bucks over 200 pounds with most coming from Lehigh or Schuylkill counties. And of course most of the mix were antlerless deer.
Hartman also believes we're killing too many doe and as he said last year, the antlerless season is too long and too many tags are being sold. "Every time you kill one doe, you're in effect killing three deer for next year," Hartman opines as he references the theory that each doe could conceivably have twins or triplets.
The New Tripoli butcher offers valid points as the PGC has said that 40 percent of hunters don't report their deer harvest. A check station would appear to be a tremendous help in establishing legitimate harvest figures.
In contrast to these processor reports, Bob Danenhower of Bob's Wildlife Taxidermy in Orefield, said he's having his best season, business wise, in five years.
"With deer numbers down and the economy down, hunters who shoot an eight or 10 point or larger buck are finding the money to have either a shoulder mount or European mount (antlers and skull) made. They may never get a similar buck, particularly since we're seeing fewer deer every year," said Danenhower.
Danenhower said he received a lot of 8s and 10s and some larger racks with some of the bigger racks being taken by youth hunters who are accompanied by their fathers.
And when asked where many of the deer came from, Danenhower said it's likely 95 percent came from private land.
It will be interesting to see what this years estimated deer harvest numbers will be. In local WMU 5C last year, there were 8,900 antlered and 24,200 antlerless deer taken from this management area that includes Lehigh, part of Northampton, Berks, Lancaster and Delaware counties, and all of Bucks and most of Berks counties.
With the post Christmas archery and muzzleloader season, there will be a few more deer being harvested, but the pickings will be slim.