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As area rifle hunters take to the woods today in an attempt to bag a trophy buck, Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer Doty McDowell indicated that their odds might be a bit better than normal this year due to bucks continuing to exhibit some rutting behavior.
"Most of the bucks that I'm seeing that I'm basing this information off of, I'm seeing in the middle of the day," McDowell said. "They're just up marking territories, searching out does, and I think the fact that it's happening in the rifle season could actually be a good thing for hunters."
McDowell noted that he typically sees this behavior earlier in November during the state's week-long elk hunting season.
This year, Elk County hunters are only able to shoot an antlered deer during the first week of the season, due to restrictions in place in Wildlife Management Units 2F and 2G, of which the county is comprised. The antlered-only season is in place from Nov. 28 through Dec. 2, with antlered and antlerless hunting permitted from Dec. 3-10.
McDowell remarked that the deer population in this area is "in line with the goals" of the PGC.
"I know that sounds like a really politically correct answer, but the agency has one idea on where we think the deer population needs to be based on all the things: the habitat, the health of the forest and the health of the animals," McDowell said. "I do know hunters would love to see more whitetails. Most sportsmen are not happy with the number of deer, but as far as I'm concerned I think we're right on goal with where we should be with what our goals of our agency are."
Part of the reason for the need to properly manage the deer herd stems from the fact that the Game Commission has to manage a wide variety of different animal species. An increase in the number of deer could significantly impact the habitat of these other animals.