Buck season begins

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KIRBY – Kevin Wilson of Smithfield and members of his hunting party of eight had seen a few nice bucks while hunting the state game lands near Kirby Monday morning, but by 1 p.m., the group had not yet been successful in bagging one.

Members of the party had sat most of the morning in the woods but because the deer weren’t moving they decided to do a drive Monday afternoon. This involved having several members of the party remain stationary while the rest walked the woods attempting to move deer toward those who were in position.

“We know there are deer here,” said Bob Williams of Connellsville, a member of Wilson’s hunting party. Their trails and tree markings and scrapings are evident throughout the woods, he said. “Hunters just have to get them moving,” Williams said.

Members of the hunting party also have been hunting this same area for a number of years and continue to come back because of the deer, Wilson said. “There are big deer over here,” he said.

According to the group, the number of hunters out in the woods for the first day of buck season seemed to be lower this year. That was part of the reason the deer weren’t moving around as much.

The warm weather Monday also wasn’t ideal for deer hunting. “We need some snow,” Wilson said. “It makes it a little easier to see them.”

Despite the warm temperatures, hunters took to the woods. Cars and trucks could be seen parked along roads throughout Greene County and hunters’ orange could be seen at local restaurants and stores. Often referred to as the holiday following Thanksgiving, schools were closed and many adults took the day off hoping to bag a buck.

William said his group would try its luck with a drive but he also believed hunting would improve toward evening when deer came out to feed. Despite their lack of success so far that day, he and Williams said they both were still happy to be out in the woods.

“It’s beautiful out,” said Williams, who had shot an eight-point buck in archery season, and had no gun Monday and was just out helping his buddies.

“It’s always exciting,” said Todd Eicher of Fairchance, also a member of the hunting party. Eicher, 16, had shot his first buck last year hunting with his father. “The first buck is always an experience,” he said.

Wildlife conservation officers for the Pennsylvania Game Commission in Greene County could not be reached Monday for comment. But it appeared the day went well, with no report of injuries.

About a mile up Route 2018 from Wilson’s hunting party, Joe Layman with the U.S. Air Force at Fort Dix, N.J., formerly of Uniontown, said hunting was slow.

“There’s just not enough hunters in the woods,” he said, as he and several members of his party took a break early in the afternoon along the road. Layman said he fears hunting is becoming a “dying sport.”

Layman said he normally takes a leave every year for the first two weeks of deer season. His group comes to Greene County because of its many state game lands.

He and his party also said it appeared the number of deer were down this year and they attributed it to past seasons when hunters were allowed to take either a buck or doe the first two weeks, reducing the number of doe in the field. This year, doe season does not kick in until next week.

Layman said he did see a buck, but he let it pass. “It was too little,” he said. It also was just the first day, he said, and he would wait until something better came along.

Hunting still attracts people to Greene County.

The Hartley Inn in Carmichaels opened at 7 a.m. and normally attracts a good-size hunting crowd the first day of buck season.

Renee Romah, manager at the restaurant, said the restaurant had a busy morning. “We’re always very busy on the first day of the season,” Romah said. Contacted late Monday morning, Romah said the restaurant was busy preparing for the lunch rush.

Local sporting goods stores also were busy.

Joe Riggs Sporting Goods in Waynesburg had been open Saturday and Sunday before the first day. Jim Hunyady, owner of the store, said business has been good. It was a little slow late Monday morning, but most hunters by then already had what they needed and were out in the woods, he said.

“In certain areas, like our area, hunting is still very popular,” he said. “We still get a lot of non-residents who come here to hunt, a lot of people from out of the area.”

Hunyady said he has noticed, however, the number of hunters has declined slightly over the years. Some people can’t get time off work to hunt, having jobs in which they working six days a week, he said.

Hunyady said he believed it probably would help if the state allowed hunting Sundays, like many other states do.

If there has been a slow down of sorts in hunting, employees of two Greene County meat processing businesses didn’t seem to notice it.

The deer came in at a steady pace on opening day, according to Virgili’s Custom Meat on Crucible Road in Jefferson.

At 4 p.m. Tina Cooley, who works at Virgili’s, said they expected business to speed up at any moment. The warmer temperatures in the afternoon and nightfall approaching will drive more hunters in for the day, Cooley said.

“We had a lot of really nice mounts early this morning. The first four or five were really big ones,” she said. “We will probably be getting a whole bunch at one time here shortly.”

The Hungarian Smokehouse on Route 88 in Carmichaels also reported an average opening day compared to past years.

“We have got about 40 deer so far today. It is probably going to get crazy after dark,” said processor Joe Bogucki. “With the (warm) weather it has not been as busy but not as slow as some years.”

Bogucki said there have been years when it has been “terrible” with the heat driving deer in all at once.

“One year, it was 70 degrees and we had 200 deer in the parking lot and we were putting ice in the cavities and all (to keep the meat from spoiling),” he said, noting it turned out OK but it was crazy busy for the employees of the Smokehouse. “We processed around 1,000 total deer last year for the year. I’m not sure exactly what the first day total was but we are about average for the day so far.”

Neither processor reported having what they’d call a big trophy buck but it was still early. Bogucki said the largest they had received before 4:30 p.m. was an eight-point buck.

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