The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) keeps a detailed record book of all whitetail taken through fair chase within the state. The list, which includes more than 2,700 entries, represents a detailed hunting history of the state and its deer herd. According to it, and PGC officials, right now is the very best time to be a hunter looking for a trophy buck. Could this be the ‘golden age’ of Pennsylvania deer hunting?
Pennsylvania’s first recorded deer season took place in 1957. That year, two bucks would make the prestigious record book. Between 2000 and 2009 alone, 753 record-book bucks were taken, an increase of 35 percent from any other decade in the book’s history.
Pennsylvania hunter, Darren Enterline, took this incredible buck on October 1st, 2011. The buck grossed more than 150 inches!
What’s more, 2010’s deer season added another 61 record entries. Together, the years 2000-2010 accounted for 49 percent of the state’s total archery records. In that same period, nearly 600 record-book bucks would fall, more than the previous two decades combined.
What’s the reason for all these record whitetail roaming the rolling Pennsylvania countryside?
In a recent interview with Bob Frye of the Pennsylvania Outdoor News, PGC chief of deer management, Chris Rosenberry said that three things contribute to a buck’s ability to grow antlers: genetics, habitat, and age. Since genetics and habitat have stayed relatively the same over the past 50 years, Rosenberry believes age is the greatest factor to consider.
Most deer experts would agree, age is the biggest factor in antler development.
Rosenberry continues, thanks to antler restrictions bucks are definitely living longer. The number of bucks 2½ and older in the harvest more than doubled from 2002 to 2010.
The results of which have led to bigger antlers throughout the state.
PGC data shows that an average Penn state 1 ½-year-old buck will have five points and a 10-inch spread between antlers. At 2 ½, the average is seven points and a spread pushing 15-inches. By age three, now with eight points and a 17-inch spread.
Rosenberry added, while deer biologists don’t manage for big bucks, he expects there will continue to be “decent numbers” out there for hunters.
Although not taken by hunter, this 2011 Pennsylvania roadkill buck shows the potential the state has to offer its hunters.
The minimum archery requirements to be eligible for the PGC record book are 115 0/8-inches for a typical whitetail buck and 135 0/8-inches for a non-typical. With a firearm the minimum requirements are 140 0/8-inches for a typical and 160 0/8-inches for a non-typical.