Pa. hunters stock up for season

November 27, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

FORT LOUDON, PA. - Passing by the bulletin board displaying pictures of past kills, hopeful hunters at Keystone Country Store on Sunday bought rifles, ammunition, clothing and other supplies before venturing into Pennsylvania's forests this morning for the start of the state's firearms deer season.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission said hunters would find more heavy-antlered bucks this season, which ends Dec. 9.

The increase of heavy-antlered bucks comes from restrictions in recent years that prohibited shooting deer that don't have at least three points on one side, said Bill Zeger, one of the owners of Keystone Country Store. Those points must each be at least 1 inch long, he said.

"What that's done in Pennsylvania is make bigger bucks," Zeger said.

Ammunition sales at his Pa. 75 store were up 25 percent and extended hours were in place to accommodate hunters, including those hailing from Indiana, Maryland, Florida, Ohio and Maine. The start of firearms deer season also brings out local patrons who only hunt occasionally.


"There are times you don't see people until this weekend," Zeger said.

Hunters in Franklin County enjoy both the quantity and quality of bucks compared to the northern part of the state, where there is less farmland and fewer crops, he said.

Daniel King, 13, who lives near Altoona, Pa., will be hunting in Franklin County for the second year, despite not having luck last season. The boy joins his uncle and father, Curt, who said that, after 30 years of hunting, he is using "better equipment because when I was 12, I couldn't afford it."

Most people visiting Keystone Country Store buy guns priced between $500 and $700, Zeger said.

Lauren Horst, 15, of Mercersburg, Pa., saved Christmas money, birthday money and earnings from work to buy her own .243-caliber Remington on Sunday. She selected the gun because it is lightweight and has detailed woodwork.

"It's short enough for me," Lauren said.

Lauren, who hunts with her mother and grandfather, took a hunting course at the Greencastle Sportsman's Club a few years ago and shot her first doe in October through the special hunting dates for Pennsylvania's junior license holders.

"I was excited," Lauren said, noting the family made bologna from the big doe.

Scott McClure, 12, of Chambersburg, Pa., was fitted for a new pair of insulated coveralls in anticipation of his 3:30 a.m. departure today into the woods of Bedford County, Pa.

"This is his first time," father Roger McClure said, "and I've been hunting since I was 12."

Jenny McClure, 17, first joined the family for hunting in 2005, and the group was met with poor, foggy weather. Scott said that, on his first trip, he is looking forward to "spending time with my dad and hopefully getting a doe."

The Pennsylvania Game Commission reported that hunters took 354,390 deer in the 2005-06 license year. Forty-five percent of the antlered bucks harvest was killed on the first day of firearms deer season.

"Although hunters may not see a lot of deer in drives or on stand in many areas, the potential to shoot a large-bodied, rack buck is better than it has been for some time in Pennsylvania," Cal DuBrock, game commission bureau of wildlife management director, said in a news release.

Hunters are likely to encounter bucks that are bigger and smarter, creating more of a challenge, the game commission said.

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