Advantages and Disadvantages of Archery Early Opening – theportonline
Like so many of my bow hunter brethren here in Wildlife Management Units (WMU) 5C and 5D, I climbed into my tree before dawn on Saturday morning to try my luck on the opening day of the Pennsylvania’s first archery season.
With clear skies, calm weather and morning temperatures of 55 degrees, the conditions couldn’t have been more perfect. But it was still a bit strange to start hunting deer when it’s still summer two weeks before the statewide season opens on October 1, when it’s in does fall.
A few years ago, the Pennsylvania Game Commission decided to open bow hunting season here at Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 5C and 5D two weeks earlier than the October 1 opening at statewide and days before the autumnal equinox (i.e. the official start of fall this year for Thursday, September 22) and created the unique opportunity for hunters local archery to hunt “summer” bucks and hinds.
And for the bow hunter fraternity, opening day, even the one that technically happens in the summer, is a deep-rooted tradition. I have no doubt that hundreds of people from southeast Pennsylvania joined me in dragging their archery gear to our corner of Penn’s Woods well before dawn on Saturday.
Truth be told, despite capturing the image of a decent 7 point buck on my trail camera last week, I still had low expectations of catching a deer on opening day and wouldn’t be neither surprised nor disappointed by a lack of action. My mission that morning was more to pay homage to the opening day tradition than to seriously attempt to collect game.
Despite these low expectations, my morning vigil revealed two does passing by, a red fox gliding through the undergrowth and finally a small three-pointed buck with stocky antlers strolling within easy bow reach. This buck’s raghorn bearer granted him a seal of protection in a state where a buck must have at least three points on a side to make it legal play. As expected, I never threw an arrow or even shot my bow while I was up that morning.
Either way, there are both pros and cons to the two-week head start that archers now enjoy here in the Southeast. Let’s first consider the benefits. Opening day offers the bow hunter a chance to pursue unwary deer that haven’t been harassed by hunters since last winter. This means that the main advantage for deer hunters on opening day is to take advantage of the element of surprise. But this advantage will fade as white-tailed deer quickly become aware of the intrusion of hunters into their world.
Second, the fact that Pennsylvania now has two open days for bowhunting (the first in mid-September here in the Southeast, the second in early October for the rest of the state) means that local bowhunters have one day open now and two weeks later. can show up at their upstate hunt camps for a second open day, much like when the Fish and Boat Commission has maintained two separate open days for trout in years past.
But that’s about it for the pros regarding the Southeast’s two-week bowhunting jump over the rest of the state.
From where I’m sitting (20 feet up my tree) the cons far outweigh the pros. While opening day conditions on Saturday morning were ideal, temperatures soaring into the 80s this afternoon as well as heat and humidity forecasts for the next few days are expected to prove problematic for archers. .
This wet hike and climb to your stand promotes excessive sweating generating an aromatic aura that will warn off any nearby deer sniffing you. And of course, when it’s heavy, it’s buggy.
Swarms of mosquitoes and gnats along with those sweat-soaked clothes can make your stay on the stand extremely uncomfortable and probably short-lived. And if the archer manages to connect with a deer, recovering the animal after haste is essential. If the white-tailed deer is ambushed in the evening and not retrieved until the next morning, the sweltering temperatures at night can make the venison unpalatable.
Other negatives include thick foliage which severely limits visibility. Since these leaves are still on the trees, this results in no significant cover of dry, crisp leaves on the ground. This makes it harder to hear deer passing by than it will be later in the season after the leaves have fallen.
Yet despite all of these early season negatives, I have no doubt that more than a few bowhunters achieved success on opening day Saturday, particularly those who performed extensive scouting programs of pre-season and hunted from stands adjacent to sleeping areas, food plots, agricultural fields, or hardwood stands shedding acorns.
In the meantime, there’s really no rush to fill out that archery tag. Later that fall, when the trees shed their leaves and the forest floor becomes carpeted with crusty leaf debris, it becomes less difficult to see and hear deer.
The advent of the rut at the end of October will also help tip the balance in favor of the bow hunter. So regardless of your archery gear of choice – longbow, recurve, compound or crossbow – late October and early November really are the best time of the season to hang out in the deer antlers.
RETURN OF THE YOUNG AQUATIC PROGRAM. After a 3 year hiatus, the Young Waterfowlers program is returning to our region thanks to the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance and DelNature. The program engages youth ages 11-16 to engage in studies of wildlife management, habitat protection, conservation practices, and wetland values during a comprehensive introduction to America’s heritage from the waterfowl.
Specific topics include waterfowl identification, conservation ethics, retriever training, wing shooting techniques, decoy carving, guns and water safety, and spirit jock. An optional hunt will be offered at the end of the program under the supervision of experienced guides. Parent participation is encouraged, but not required (no additional cost).
Participants will have the opportunity to meet hunter safety requirements at no additional cost and will receive a certification card (required for all new hunters in PA). The program will run October 16 and 23 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day at the Myrick Conservation Center with lunch provided. The cost is $75 per child.
The program is led by Jim Jordan, Executive Director of the BRC, with instruction provided by a host of regional experts including accomplished carvers, dog trainers and World Waterfowl Calling Champions. To participate in these programs, a BRC or DelNature family membership is required. For more information, call 610-793-1090. Online registration is ongoing at www.brandywineredclay.org or https://www.delawarenaturesociety.org/.
Tom Tatum is the outside columnist for the MediaNews group. You can reach him at [email protected]