PUNXSUTAWNEY — Beautiful weather Monday contributed to a large turnout of buck hunters in southern Jefferson County for opening day.
Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer Mike Girosky reported that the opening week of the popular rifle season had its ups and downs in regards to the weather.
“The weather for opening day was really nice. It wasn’t cold, and there wasn’t any snow for tracking deer, but we had many successful hunters as a lot of deer were taken that day,” Girosky said. “The good news is that there’s been some snow on the ground, which has helped hunters track deer.”
Girosky explained that in southern Jefferson County, there are still a lot of doe to be had because the county typically has a good amount of deer roaming the wild.
“I saw so many deer when I was out patrolling during bear season,” he said. “They were everywhere.”
Girosky added that like other unfortunate travelers, he, too, has fallen victim to striking a deer with his Game Commission truck.
“During the Sunday of bear season, one jumped out in front of me and did considerable damage,” Girosky said.
Girosky pointed out that he saw some nice-sized deer harvested on opening day, including what appeared to be a large eight-point.
“I didn’t measure it, but it stuck up about six inches out of the bed of the pickup truck,” Girosky said. “We saw a nice nine-point earlier in the day that was taken around the Panic/Knox Dale Road area.”
Girosky also talked about the death of officer David L. Grove, who was shot and killed in the line of duty while on patrol Nov. 11 in Adams County.
Grove, 31, was investigating reports of ongoing night-time shooting and possible poaching activity in the area.
Prior to the incident, the last Game Commission Officer to have been shot and killed in the line of duty was Game Protector Joseph McHugh in Carbon County Nov. 7, 1915. Girosky said that obviously, such an event does shake him and his fellow officers.
“Everyone is very professional at what we do,” he said. “When something like that happens, it’s a lot to take in and think about. His death brings the danger of the job to the forefront. The people we deal with are always armed one way or another, but you can’t let that stop you from doing your job. At the same time, you have to be very careful.”
Girosky added that game commission officers are basically doing the same job that police officers do.
“We’re enforcing different laws in a different place. It’s very similar to any police department or what the state police do,” Girosky explained. “We have to deal with the same people that the regular police deal with.
“In the case of Dave Grove, he was dealing with a person who was a convicted felon, and who didn’t want to go to prison,” he added. “The police had dealt with him before.”
Girosky’s No. 1 piece of advice for anyone who’s heading into the woods again today, or for the first time, is to make sure to identify your target before pulling the trigger.
“This applies in all hunting seasons. That’s when the worst accidents occur — when a person is mistaken for game,” Girosky said. “The person who fires the gun is purposely pointing it at something and firing in that direction, which is why those are the worst accidents.”
Girosky added that all hunters should make sure their gun is unloaded when they aren’t hunting.
“I’ve run into a lot of people who lean their guns up against their vehicles or lay them on top of their vehicles loaded, which is a very dangerous practice.”
Last year, hunters harvested an estimated 308,920 number of deer in the state, which is an eight-percent decline from the previous season’s harvest of 335,850.
Hunters took 108,330 antlered deer in the 2009-10 seasons, down 11 percent from the previous license year’s harvest of 122,410, but similar to the 2007-08 harvest of 109,200.
Also, hunters harvested 200,590 antler-less deer in 2009-10, which is a six-percent decline from the 213,440 antler-less deer taken in 2008-09. The 2007-08 antler-less deer harvest was 213,870. The two-week rifle season ends next Saturday.