Deer season off to good start in area


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A Game Commission supervisor says most of the hunters seemed to do pretty well with the new unit boundaries; meanwhile, one injury is reported in Forest County.

State Game Commission officials said Monday the first day of deer season went fairly smoothly despite a new set of rules implemented this year.

The commission broke the state into 22 huntable areas in an attempt to control the size of doe herds in certain habitat areas. Doe permits are no longer issued for individual counties, but are issued for Wildlife Management Units - most of which encompass several counties.

Regis Senko, the information and education supervisor for the Game Commission in Franklin, a said some hunters seemed to be confused Monday over unit boundaries, but "overall, it wasn't too bad."

"Most people, I think, have a handle on it," Senko said. "It's something new and the hunters have to make sure they have some knowledge of where they're at before they go out."

The officer said he referred to a pocket map of the statewide management units several times Monday to discuss the new borders with hunters.

"Hunters need to consult that management map in conjunction with a road map so they know exactly where they're at," Senko said, adding that Venango County offers challenges because it is part of four management units.

"You can't guess at it; you'd better take the time to look," he said.

In another area, though, Senko believes hunters have a better handle this year on newer point restrictions mandated last year, and some believe that's allowing bigger bucks to be harvested.

Hunters in a majority of the state are allowed to harvest bucks with three or more points, each at least one inch long. Before 2002, hunters were allowed to take deer with two or more points on one antler or a spike three or more inches in length. But deer shot in a handful of some local management areas must have four or more points, each one inch long.

"I think hunters overall are doing better at looking at points this year," he said. "There's not the volume of mistake kills this year."

Those who do mistakenly kill a deer with the wrong number or length of points are required to field dress the animal and tag it. That kill must also be reported to the regional game commission office and an affidavit must be filled out describing why the animal was mistakenly shot.

"It will be the officer's determination of whether it's accepted or rejected," Senko said. "If accepted, they pay a $25 restitution. If it's not accepted, they're prosecuted for the entire amount. You have to look at each case on its own merit."

Since the new point restrictions were implemented, hunters have lamented seeing fewer deer or fewer deer they could shoot. But the Game Commission contends that will amount to more mature bucks with larger racks being harvested as years go on.

"The best one (I saw) - I quit counting at 13 points down toward Polk," Senko said, estimating the deer to be older than 2.

The Game Commission estimates the state's deer herd at around 1.6 million. The commission's experts estimated that under the old rules, as much as 93 percent of the annual buck herd was being killed before the animals were 18 months old.

Around sundown Monday, Senko said it was too early to estimate the number of deer harvested so far, but some deer processors are calling the day mixed.

"Personally, I've seen some nice deer, but it was not a very good kill day," said Slugger Wagner, owner of Sara Jane's Deli in Fryburg. "It was maybe half of what it normally is. Usually I get 200 the first day. It's around 80 or 85 right now. We're seeing some nice bucks, but you're bound to when you have to have (more points)."

Other butchers in this part of the state reported numbers comparable to or slightly below previous years.

Meanwhile, at least one hunter was injured Monday in the area.

Reports indicate an out-of-town man who was hunting with family members near Tionesta was injured when a tree fell and struck him. Ambulance personnel had to trek more than two miles into the woods to rescue the man. He was taken to Titusville Area Hospital with unspecified injuries, and sources indicated he might have to be transferred to a Pittsburgh hospital.

Senko said he wasn't aware of any other hunting accident by late Monday afternoon.