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11/27/05 Sunday Daily Record

Big day in Pa. for Jersey hunters
Monday's the day New Jersey hunters go over the river and into the woods for Pennsylvania's deer season opener.

If it's anything like the bear season's opener last Monday, make room in those freezers, venison's on the way. The 2,026 bears checked in on Monday topped some of Pennsylvania's entire bear seasons, so a new harvest record may be set.

Bear hunting will coincide with deer hunting and run all this week in five wildlife management units and on some correctional property, so the final total could be way over the 3,075 record-setting kill in 2000, when 1,691 bruins were taken on the first day.

Our Pleasant Ridge Camp in the Poconos will have area hunters in a piece of Monroe County where New Jersey plates will be as prevalent as Pennsylvania plates are here on New Jersey trout stocking days. Hunters bagged 409,320 deer during the last season. However, this year may find fewer, but bigger, bucks because of antler restrictions that has sportsmen arguing.

First day there and here is the biggest producer because that's when the most deer are available, when the most hunters go out and deer have not yet turned largely nocturnal and headed for no-hunting areas. The first day of the two-week rifle season was the best last year, accounting for 40 percent of the overall harvest, followed by the first Saturday, then Tuesday and the second Saturday.

Shortened trip

My New York deer hunting lasted one day because of a pulled muscle and a knee that got twisted too many times in long-ago hockey days, but hunting partner Jay Cassell passed up a spike and saw a bear on the first Saturday before bruin season started last Monday up there.

Jay is the deputy editor of Field & Stream and had just returned with a nine-pointer from Texas, so he sure didn't need a spike, plus we were the only two guys hunting 388 acres that had an adjoining 1,000 in Forestburgh, Sullivan County. By starting deer season on a Saturday, New York offers deer hunters four weekends.

Not many antlered bucks

Closer to home, this year's Great Swamp hunt removed 150 deer, only 12 of them antlered bucks because hunters have to take does before they can shoot a buck.

Wildlife biologist Craig Bitler said lowering the deer density has had a major impact on the swamp's flora, which was in bad shape before hunting started in the 1970s.

"Oak seedlings used to barely get out of the ground before they were snipped off by deer, now we have thousands of oak seedlings all over," Bitler said.

Argument still going

The war of words over bears continues in New Jersey, with the antis calling the six days of bear season during the Dec. 5-10 deer season a trophy hunt. That's baloney.

Hunters didn't even ask for a bear hunt, but once it was recommended by wildlife biologists and supported by the Fish and Game Council, we supported it and still do in the face of advertising and public relations by the antis.

The Fish and Game Council keeps getting criticized for having too many hunters, but the non-hunting public probably doesn't know how management of our fish and wildlife resources works. Hunters don't demand a hunting season. Division of Fish and Wildlife biologists' first concern is the resource. They recommend, the Council, because it isn't loaded with anti-hunters and almost always support the scientific decisions. So do hunters.

Talk about trophy hunting is a public relations gimmick by people who would prefer we never kill any wildlife, who spend on ways to stop hunting wildlife instead of managing it. Imagine how many deer we'd have if we stopped hunting them. Anti-hunters plan to sue on Monday to try to stop the bear hunt.

Permits still available

There are leftover bear permits available to hunters who have taken the bear training seminar for zones 1, 2, 3 and 4 at Pequest, Division headquarters as well as the Central and Southern Division offices. There is no charge. Hunters have to bring their hunting licenses and their names have to be listed among those who completed seminars.
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