By Joseph Deinlein

The Danville News

The 2009 deer harvest was one of the smallest statewide in the past 10 years.

And while the number of licenses issued for hunting in the Central Susquehanna Valley's four counties has dropped from last year, reports from officers in the field indicate a fair to good chance for bagging that big buck sometime today through the end of the season.

Antlered deer season starts today and ends Dec. 3. The season for antlered and antlerless deer starts Dec. 4 and ends Dec. 11.

In Wildlife Management Units 4D, which includes Union and Snyder counties, and 4E, which includes Northumberland and Montour counties, the limit is one antlered deer with at least three points -- or tines -- on one side, per hunting license, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission's website. The limit is one doe per antlerless license.

There were 30,052 licenses for antlerless deer issued for 4D, which is down from 40,000 in 2009, according to the commission. There were 26,899 issued in 4E, which is down from 30,000 last year.

Why the decrease?

In 4D, there were 5,000 antlered and 7,200 antlerless deer taken during the 2009-10 season. The previous year, there were 6,600 antlered and 9,300 antlerless, according to Game Commission statistics, That means there were 12,200 taken last year compared to 15,900 the prior year -- a 24 percent decrease.

In 4E, things weren't quite as bad, but still noticeable. There were 4,100 antlered and 6,300 antlerless deer harvested in 2009-10, a total of 10,400. The year before, there were 4,300 antlered and 7,200 antlerless taken, a total of 11,500, based on Game Commission statistics. That's a 10 percent drop.

Just because last year's hunt wasn't as good doesn't mean there aren't deer in the Valley.

The best place to go?

Judging by the reports found on the Game Commission's website, it looks like Union County will be the spot.

"Last year, sportsmen who hunted the mountains did not fare as well as those who hunted the agricultural areas because of the poor mast crop," wrote Wildlife Conservation Officer Dirk Remensnyder. "This year, however, should be different. Foods abound all over, and early reports of many large-racked buck are coming in."

The report for Snyder County by WCO Harold J. Malehorn was less enthusiastic, but still promising.

"Fair," he wrote. "The deer population again seems to be holding steady. The population is less than what hunters have seen years ago, by design. Larger bucks continue to be spotted in many areas."

In Northumberland and Montour counties, it's going to take some skill to find that whitetail.

"They are there, farmers are complaining about the crop damage and I see them all the time in my travels," said WCO Rick A. Deiterich. "They just know how to hide at the right time."

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