Butch Blough sees and handles more deer than most men and women who will make the annual trek into the woods hoping to bag the elusive white-tail when the season opens today.
But on that long-awaited first day of deer season, Blough, who works at Thomas Smoked Meats in Tire Hill, will be out among the rest hoping to capture one with the biggest rack.
“I’ll go out hunting on the first day. I’ll probably go in the Tire Hill area,” Blough said as he worked Friday getting ready for the big day.
The deer will be coming in throughout the day today with staff ready to skin them. The real work starts Tuesday with the first of several days of steady processing work at Thomas.
While many hunters have their deer processed into burger, roasts and steaks, sausage and jerky products from at least a portion of the harvest are always popular, he said.
Blough will join an estimated 750,000 people who will head out into Pennsylvania’s mountains, ridges and woodlands today for what is arguably the busiest hunting day of the year.
“The opening day is when the greatest number of hunters are out there,” said Joe Kosack, a spokesman with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. “They are moving around. They run into other hunters and they are moving the deer around, making it the most exciting time of the season to be out there.”
While many die-hard deer hunters prefer cold temperatures with a light snow for tracking, AccuWeather predicts a chilly start to the season today with temperatures climbing into the 30s and lower 40s by afternoon.
Any chance of snow will be Tuesday, when temperatures will start out in the 20s and move into the 30s, meteorologist Tom Kines said.
Hunters in many low-lying areas of Cambria and Somerset can expect rain Tuesday, he said.
Deer hunting in Pennsylvania is so popular, the Monday following Thanksgiving has been dubbed Pennsylvania’s only unofficial holiday – marking the first day of the two-week general deer season.
Bright orange will be seen throughout “Penn’s Woods” from now through Dec. 8, Carl Roe, executive director of the game commission, said of the scene through much of rural Pennsylvania.
As in the past, an estimated 2.2 million acres of state forest lands are open to deer hunting and steps have been taken to make the areas more accessible by opening an increased number of roads.
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has opened more than
400 miles of roads normally closed to hunters in 18 of its 20 forest districts statewide.
Antler restrictions in place for this year remain unchanged from past years.
Legislation enacted last year eliminates the mandatory requirement that licenses be displayed on an outer garment, Roe said. While the license must be carried, it can be placed in the hunter’s wallet with a secondary form of identification now required.
Hunters reporting deer kills can do so online, by calling a toll-free number or by mailing a postcard.
Use of the online system is being encouraged because it allows for immediate information on the deer harvest. But whatever the system chosen, Roe said, it is important that all hunters do their part in deer management and report all harvests.
While the deer population is ever shifting and at times there may be more hunters than game in the woods, remain persistant, Kosack suggested, especially during the first few days.
“You need to remain vigilant. You can pack your lunch and stay the day.”
Using common sense after the deer is down plays a key role in the quality of the venison meat, which Kosack said can amount to as much as 50 meals for an average family.
The best advice, Kosack said, is: “Shelve the pride and don’t parade the harvest around the community.”
• Fill out the the harvest tag included with license and attach it to deer’s ear.
• Immediately field dress the animal, removing entrails.
• Pack the cavity in ice as soon as possible.
• For home butchering, wipe the interior of the animal with clean cloths.
• Avoid using water and a hose, which will spread any contamination.
• Get the hide off as soon as possible to allow for further cooling.
For those hunters who don’t enjoy eating their trophy, the game commission asks them to consider participating in “Hunters Sharing the Harvest.”
Since around 1991, the program uses a network of local volunteer area coordinators and cooperating meat processors to donate the venison to local food banks, soup kitchens and needy families.
Recognized as one of the most successful among similar programs in about 40 states, the harvest sharing program asks the hunter to make a $15 tax-deductible donation toward costs, with the remainder covered by the program.
More information on sharing the harvest can be found at 866-474-2141.
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