Where Are All the Pennsylvania Hunters Going?

by Ben Sobieck, online editor

Where are all the Pennslvania hunters going?Pennsylvania’s deer hunting reputation is being threatened by hunters who "drift" in and out of the sport.

Lancaster Online reports that roughly 150,000 hunters do not hunt consecutive seasons. That’s 16 percent of its hunting population. For a state with upwards of 1 million hunters (counting deer and other game), that churning effect is a difficult issue to solve for state wildlife officials.

The Lancaster Online article indicates a primary reason for the exodus: a lack of game which may or may not be deer.

No game species were identified, since the survey didn’t ask for that information, but Martone, Weaner and Delaney all said they would guess deer would be on the list.

States with similar problems, such as Michigan, passed legislation to make hunting mentorships easier.

Although the focus is often on getting children into the outdoors, D&DH‘s own observations indicate hunters go in and out of the sport depending on demographics. Even those who grew up in outdoors families, for example, tend to lose interest during the teen years into their 20s. If they return to hunting more aggressively, it’s often after settling down – and only if they have access, the perennial thorn in the side of hunting.

These generalizations don’t mean the solutions can be painted with just as broad a brush. No state wildlife program has found the magic bullet.

In the Lancaster Online article, Pennsylvania Game Commissioner President Ron Weaner said he had more questions than answers.

"The PGC has already bent over backwards — youth seasons, mentored hunting, crossbows, Saturday bear opener, etc. — to encourage more people to hunt and has met with limited success.

"I am still interested in retaining and recruiting hunters, and think it is very important. The simple fact is that some people will not hunt year after year no matter what we do."

It’s unlikely deer hunting will go away for good in Pennsylvania. If ranked as a standing army, Pennsylvania’s 750,000 deer hunters would outnumber South Korea’s active military personnel. That’s not an army that likely to hang up the white flag any time soon.

2 thoughts on “Where Are All the Pennsylvania Hunters Going?

  1. RJD2I

    J.Walter hit the nail on the head. There are 2 issues, number one being the fact that the game commission authorized killing all the deer. I am 35 and if when i started as a teenager it was like it is now, I would be doing something other than hunting. I am a hunting junkie also so I am in for the long haul but it does get harder year after year to go and see nothing. I also hunt MD and in 2 years I have seen multiple deer on every sit, on public land. Take SE ans SW PA out of the mix and from what I get from other hunters is there really aren’t many deer left. Granted, the antler restriction has made the product better but when you see a deer every 4th sit, it doesnt take long before you start using the money that was going to hunting in PA to go somewhere else to hunt. Number 2 is the access problem. PA has a ton of public hunting, which is great but sometimes very scary with the amount of hunters we have. Most landowners I have been turned away by state liability as the reason. We live in a very litigious society and I am not sure how this problem is fixed. What I do know i that PA’s orange army is getting smaller and smaller and that is not going to change unless something drastic happens. The game commission may not realize this until it is too late and all of the proceeds from license sales have dried up. When this happens, it is going to take generations to return hunters to the woods and hunters money back into the state’s economy. I hope I am wrong and something happens but it sure doesn’t seem like it’s going to.

  2. J. Walter

    I am a Pa. resident and a lot of the problem i see is access. A lot of good hunting ground is being bought up and posted. And a lot of these people don’t hunt. Some I ‘ve seen don’t hunt , won’t let neighbors hunt their ground or other people whom previously had perrmision to hunt there, and then they will harrass anyone that is hunting close to there property line.All of the deer soon figure out they need to be back in the posted ground well before shooting hours.Recently there has been a push for Sunday hunting to promote more hunters.A lot of the resistance I’ve heard and seen is from the farmers saying they are going to post their ground if Sunday hunting is aloud . I don’t understand this because they are always bitching about crop damage. But yet they are standing in line for crop damage tags to kill more deer , and they will be in line for crop damage insurance after the deer have eaten their corn. I feel that if this is the case then they should be ineligable for such benifits. Besides most of these farmers don’t even collect the meat to give to the needy. They will just gut shoot them and let the deer run off somewhere else to die. All the teenagers ( new hunters ) don’t want to go anymore because they are bored not seeing anything. I’m 52 yrs. old and in my teens and even up through my late thirties we would see anywhere from thirty to fifty deer a day but around the year 2000 the game commision opened up war on does. Putting doe season in for 2 weeks at the same time as buck season instead of leaving it just the 3 days after buck season . Now you are very lucky if you see 5 deer in a day. If I wasn’t a hunting junky I would give it up also.

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