Best Spots for Bowhunting Trophy Bucks in Pennsylvania
June 05, 2015
Bowhunters in the Keystone State must match wits with other savvy stick-and-string deer-slayers who all are pursuing smart bucks that have literally seen and heard it all. It takes good woodsmanship, a plethora of patience and straight shooting to get one of these wary whitetails.
Today, more and more Pennsylvania bowhunters are passing on younger bucks, contributing to unprecedented mature buck harvests.
"In 2014, 57 percent of the total buck harvest consisted of bucks 2.5 years old or older," says Kip Adams, a wildlife biologist and director of education and outreach for Quality Deer Management Association. "This is the highest percentage ever recorded in Pennsylvania."
Since 2010, western Pennsylvania has consistently produced the state's largest racks. A quick peek at the Pope and Young (P&Y) records reveals that, since 2010, bowhunters in Allegheny, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties are harvesting the most trophies.
"Having grown up around Butler County, I know there's some great farmland and the Moraine State Park," says Art Keefer, office manager for United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania. "There are great places for deer to hide and get big with age."
Allegheny County boasts the most all-time P&Y entries (182) and a current archery state record. That 2004 typical buck, taken by Michael Nicola of Waterford, scored 178 2/8 net inches.
Varied habitat and rich agriculture help bucks grow long in the tooth in this region.
"The southern part of western Pennsylvania is predominantly comprised of maple, oak and hickory stands, as well as agriculture fields where farmers grow alfalfa, corn and soybeans," explains Charles Bier, director of conservation science for Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. "As you go north, you find more hemlocks and broadleaf deciduous trees like black cherry, sugar maple and yellow birch."
The main exception to western Pennsylvania's trophy dominance is Berks County, in the eastern part of the state. Since, 2010, archers there have recorded 14 P&Y qualifiers: the same number as in Butler County.
This year, bowhunters in some areas might even get a shot at a velvet buck. In April the Pennsylvania Game Commission set Sept. 19 as the archery season opener for Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 2B, 5C and 5D. The first archery season in those WMUs runs through Nov. 28, while the second archery season is Dec. 26 — Jan. 23, 2016. Statewide archery seasons are Oct. 3 — Nov. 14 and Dec. 26 — Jan. 9, 2016.
Bowhunters who leave tree stands or portable hunting blinds on state game lands must identify them with their full name and legal home address or with the CID number found on the owner's hunting license. All stands and blinds must be removed no later than two weeks after the close of the final deer season within the WMU.
While baiting deer in general is illegal in Pennsylvania, hunters on private land in the southeastern special regulations area (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties) are allowed to use electronic feeders to lure deer into bow range. Hunters must first obtain baiting permits and clearly display their permit number on their automatic feeders.
"The Pennsylvania Game Commission recently approved a measure allowing municipalities to also obtain a special deer-baiting permit," explains commission spokesman Travis Lau. "Deer are overpopulated in the southeastern special regulations area, so allowing electronic feeders is intended to help hunters bring deer numbers down."
North-central Pennsylvania, particularly WMU 2G, contains large tracts of public hunting land. While harvest rates are relatively low, bucks are known to grow old and gnarly in this area.
If you're going to pursue deer in that part of the state, make sure you're physically fit and have the mettle to overcome the challenging terrain.
In fact, the earliest recorded Boone & Crockett entry came from McKean County in north-central Pennsylvania. Taken by Arthur Young in 1830, the bruiser netted 175 4/8 inches.
Check it out in this Big Buck Profile from NAW TV:
For more information on bowhunting in Pennsylvania, go to pgc.state.pa.us. To learn more about P&Y bucks taken by bowhunters in Pennsylvania and the rest of North America, visit pope-young.org.