Deer Hunting Strategy for Harvesting a Late Season Pennsylvania Buck
The first day of deer rifle season is a tradition in Pennsylvania. Whether you enjoy archery or muzzleloader hunting, everyone marks the opening day of Pennsylvania’s rifle season on their calendar. All that hype, anticipation, and year-long excitement is over in one short day. Prepared, and lucky, hunters, will have one hanging at the end of the first day but many more will have to re-evaluate and adapt their deer hunting strategy if they want to harvest a late season buck in the Keystone State.
Late Season Deer Hunting Opportunities in Pennsylvania
Deer hunting the late season starts the beginning of the second week of rifle season and runs all the way to the conclusion of deer hunting in Pennsylvania, which is the last day of flintlock season.
Deer Hunting Season in Pennsylvania
Deer firearms season: November 26 – December 8.
- Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 2B, 5C and 5D both antlered and antlerless deer can be harvested with each required license.
- WMUs 1A, 1B, 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, 5A and 5B are antlered harvest only November 26 – November 30 except for those hunters having a DMAP antlerless permit, who can harvest an antlerless deer in a DMAP zone. From December 1 – December 8, both antlered and antlerless deer can be harvested.
Deer flintlock and archery after Christmas season: December 26 – January 12.
- One antlered or antlerless deer can be harvested with a buck tag and additional antlerless deer can be harvested with each additional doe tag.
Late season deer hunting in Pennsylvania can be split into two distinct phases. The first is the second week of the deer firearms season. Deer hunting on public land in Pennsylvania has been overloaded with hunters the first week of rifle season and now hunting pressure is slowly decreasing. These last few days of rifle season can be productive if you know how to hunt deer.
The second phase of the late season is the after Christmas flintlock and archery season. Roughly 3 weeks after the end of the rifle season, late season flintlock and archery season provide hunters one last chance at Pennsylvania deer hunting. Hunters are restricted to using traditional flintlock muzzleloaders or archery setups during this season. It takes a completely different deer hunting strategy during these weeks, however, to score a last minute buck.
Deer Hunting Strategy for the Last Week of Rifle Season
If you are not seeing any deer while hunting the second week of rifle season, it may be time to adapt your deer hunting tactics. Here are four tips to up your deer hunting strategy in the second week.
- Still-hunt bad weather days – The rifle season only lasts for two weeks in most WMUs in the state so you have to hunt when you can. This includes bad weather days. Still-hunt along ridges and on old logging roads where you can stop and glass often. The weather (rain, snow or wind) will allow you to sneak quietly and possibly make something happen and spot an unsuspecting buck. A good deer rifle scope goes a long way here if you have to take a long shot at a buck.
- Re-visit your opening day plan – A buck that has been pushed from his core area on opening day will come back as pressure subsides in the second week. Go back to your opening deer hunting strategy and wait for him to come back.
- Use any hunting pressure to your advantage – Some more mature bucks will go nocturnal during rifle season. The only way they will move in daylight hours is by getting bumped. Don’t be afraid to hunt where others are hunting. Let them move around and spook up a buck to your position.
- Try some rut tactics – In some areas, bucks will still be in rut mode. Either late estrous does or second rut action can be found in the second week. It is not a bad idea to have your grunt call, doe bleat and even rattling horns with you. Be cautious, however, as rattling and blowing a grunt call in areas with a lot of hunting pressure may yield unwanted hunters to your area.
How to See More Deer While Hunting after Christmas
Some of the same deer hunting tips used in the second week of rifle season can also be effective in the after Christmas flintlock season. Although, deer are now back into predictable patterns, particularly their winter patterns. This deer hunting season in Pennsylvania requires more attention to basic deer needs and less around hunting pressure. Consider these three deer hunting tips and strategies when hunting the flintlock season.
- Hunt mid-day – Winter will be in full force and even the deer will notice the cold temperatures. With reduced hunting pressure, bucks will move more during mid-day when temperatures warm. You want to be hunting when the sun is the highest and bucks are taking advantage of the few extra degrees of warmth.
- Focus on late season food sources – Deer will be back into feeding mode trying to recover from the rut and maintain themselves during the cold. Groups of deer will usually gather around remaining food sources like mast producing ridges and remaining agricultural fields with leftover crops. Both of these locations are ideal ambush spots for late season deer hunting. Having quality hunting clothing will help you sit over these areas in the evening as temperatures drop.
- Key in on deer sign – Deer sign is probably more important now than any other time of the year besides the peak rut. In winter deer are not traveling great distances. They are going from bedding areas to feeding areas and back again on a fairly consistent pattern. Areas with fresh deer sign mean deer are in the area and will be back through at some point. Hunt fresh sign and hope one of the tracks or pile of scat you find belongs to a leftover buck.
Don’t get discouraged if you have not filled your buck tag yet. There are many more days left for deer hunting in Pennsylvania besides the first day of buck season. Focus and adapt your deer hunting strategy during the second week of rifle season and during flintlock season to tag out a late season buck.