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Best Spots for Bowhunting Trophy Bucks in Pennsylvania

Best Spots for Bowhunting Trophy Bucks in Pennsylvania
Barry Kern

With more than 330,000 bowhunters hitting the woods annually, Pennsylvania can lay claim as one of the hottest archery deer destinations in the country. The above map represents official Pope & Young whitetail entries from the Keystone State (colored coded to show how many have come from each county).

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."

Barry Kern's 2010 Washington County buck, measuring 175 3/8 net, is one of the largest typicals ever harvested by bow in the state.

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."

Mike Duck's massive 2013 Lycoming County non-typical was just 1 1/8 inches from the all-time state archery record, and goes to show that giants aren't just in the western portion of the state.

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.

Ty Schaefer's 172 4/8 no. 5 archery typical whitetail was taken in Fayette County in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania.

"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 To learn more about P&Y bucks taken by bowhunters in Pennsylvania and the rest of North America, visit

Kyle Heuerman

Any serious whitetail hunter knows that it's not often that we get a second chance on the buck of a lifetime, or even a first chance for that matter. But luck was on the side of Kyle Heuerman and his girlfriend Jennifer Weaver when they put an arrow through this 196-inch Illinois brute. Read the full story.

Joe Franz

We estimate he was 7 1/2 years old. That's based on photos from 2010, when he clearly wasn't over 3 1/2. When I got him he weighed over 300 pounds on the hoof, as suspected. Official B&C measurer Glen Salow came up with a 'green ' gross score of 258 7/8 inches. After the 60-day drying period, he again taped the rack. This time he got a gross non-typical score of 261 3/8, with a net of 230 7/8. The gross score evidently makes this the highest-scoring wild whitetail ever harvested on professional video. Read the full story.

Jon Massie

Jon's no stranger to free-ranging whitetails across the central plains, having guided a number of clients to trophies and harvesting many big ones himself. In fact, going into 2013 he'd shot two net Boone & Crocketts: one a non-typical scoring over 200, the other a typical from public land. With such success behind him, Jon felt all of his hunting dreams already had come true. At least, he did until a buck he'd never seen showed up on one of his trail cameras. Read the full story.

Tom Boyer

Knowing I couldn't even come to my knees without breaking the little concealment we had, I decided to lie on my left side, using my left elbow for as solid a rest as could be achieved within the slight incline of the old fencerow. But when I shouldered the rifle, the sight of the crosshairs oriented at a 10-4 o'clock angle was definitely a different look from the normal 12-6 position we all practice from. Even so, I didn't figure that would matter if I aimed at the right spot and squeezed off a clean shot. I settled the crosshairs where I needed to place the bullet and steadied the rifle. Whispering 'fire in the hole ' while floating the crosshairs on the spot, I gently squeezed the trigger until the recoil removed the buck from my view. Read the full story.

Teddy's Buck

With a whopping 40 inches of non-typical growth, he has a gross Boone & Crockett score of 215 3/8. The rack's 21 6/8-inch inside spread certainly helps to show off its unique character. He was just a special deer, and very much a result of patience in both management and hunting. Read the full story.

Ryan Sullivan

Ryan Sullivan was only 19 when, during the 2013 season, he arrowed an Arkansas buck of gigantic proportions. Like many of his fellow Arkansans, Ryan is a deer and duck fanatic. For several years, however, he gave up most of his duck season to lock horns with the world-class buck. Read the full story.

Junior Key

Junior's outstanding whitetail is the biggest ever recorded from Monroe County, and he ranks as one of the Bluegrass State's top bucks from the 2013-14 season. This great non-typical also is the latest member of Kentucky's all-time Top 30 list. Read the full story.

Mikell Fries

At 16 yards, Mikell took aim at the giant and released his arrow. In an instant, the shaft had passed through him. The deer instantly whirled and ran out of sight . . . but then, within seconds the archer heard him crash to the ground. 'I remained in the stand for several minutes to gather my thoughts and calm down, ' Mikell says. 'I'm sure the entire encounter only took a few minutes, but it seemed an eternity. ' Read the full story.

Bill Robinson

Three double-digit tines of 10 2/8 to 13 5/8 inches, plus 7 1/8- and 9 3/8-inch brows and a 21 3/8-inch inside spread, add plenty to this regal crown. Put everything together and you have a gross 9-point frame score of 193 6/8. That's as big as it sounds. Typical asymmetry and 11 6/8 inches of abnormal points total 25 1/8 inches of deductions, so as a typical, the deer nets 'only ' 168 5/8. But the 8×5 rack's total gross score of 205 4/8 is much more reflective of its stunning size. Regardless of score, the Robinson buck is clearly a marvel of nature. Read the full story.

Nick Drake

The action was fast and furious right from the get-go. At daybreak a doe busted through the cedar thicket with an eight-point suitor following close behind. The doe, however, wanted nothing to do with her pursuer and jumped into a nearby pond in an attempt to flee the buck. This, however, wasn't the last of the action. Nick continued to watch several bucks harass does throughout the morning, but chose not to take a shot at them. Read the full story.

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