Tail is wagging the dog with PGC

March 18, 2017

It has been said figures don’t lie and liars figure.

With both of those thoughts in mind, I am struggling with some figures I have acquired from an amateur statistician on the number of record-book deer taken in the archery and traditional firearms season.

First and foremost, let’s remember it is the whitetail deer that creates the most controversy. Are numbers too large? There are those who would say yes.

Or is the scarcity of deer up north an indication the herd is too small. Many outdoorsmen would say yes.

There is always the question of deer quality. I hate calling those little bucks, which were all but nonexistent in Washington County when I started hunting, inferior but don’t know another word to use.

While some of the spike and fork horns will grow into bucks with decent headgear, many won’t.

Of course, this subject falls into the category of antler restrictions and whether or not they do increase the antler score of the bucks taken here at home.

Perhaps the data given to me by Joe Wilcox can open the door to answer some of these questions, but as in all things, there is some peripheral questions that enter the picture and make what seems a simple answer one that is more complicated.

As the stats are studied, one thing jumps out. It is not the increase of the size of the trophies taken after restrictions, but the major jump in the total bucks taken during the archery season.

Years ago, it was a good archery season when bow hunters downed 7 percent of the total harvest. Today’s archery kill is slightly under 40 percent of the total. The high archery harvest began its climb with the season extension into the November rut.

The problem faced when comparing the rifle numbers of trophy bucks taken to those downed with the bow involves the differences in the required score needed to be entered in the record book.

In Pennsylvania, a buck that measures 115 makes book when taken with the bow, while a firearm-taken buck must score 140.

When the archery season was first created, the long season took into account the difficulty of downing a buck with a primitive tool.

Back then, we used nothing but a recurve bow and two-bladed broadheads.

I still admire a hunter who handicaps themselves with the use of such a bow.

In comparison to the recurve, or for that matter the crossbow, the compound bow is a modern hunting tool. Going to the extreme, the Chinese had a repeating crossbow nearly 2,000 years ago.

I can’t help but wonder just where we are headed, our future hunts to be dominated by archery? Is this playing into the hands of the anti-gun people when the rifle is no longer needed to hunt?

Don’t laugh. Hunting is an argument in favor of firearms ownership.

While the figures don’t lie, sometimes an anomaly is found that is hard to explain.

All you have to do is look at the harvest figures from 2000. What was so special about that deer season? In 1999, there were 75 bucks taken that made archery and rifle record books.

In 2000 that number jumped to 154. The following year, the number returned to a normal 42. Why?

Other factors that affect the deer numbers from the archery season and entered in the record book are present if some thought is put into it.

The archer’s ability to hunt places where the rifle hunter can’t even consider is a major factor. Washington County would be a good example with its rapid development.

A hunter using the bow can hunt near homes and other developments where the firearms hunter cannot. These areas produce the biggest bucks because the hunting is very limited. It really doesn’t take a very big patch of cover for a big buck to take up residence.

I feel that the tail is wagging the dog as far as deer hunting goes. Yet it is the firearms hunter that is the backbone of supporting the Pennsylvania Game Commission financially.

I have just begun to peruse Mr. Wilcox’s data.

George H. Block writes a Sunday Outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.

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