A Philadelphian Guide to Deer Hunting

The clear weather is ideal for this early bird sport that helps maintain healthy forests.

Retired outdoor marketing specialist Kevin Talbot, who lives in Media, hunts on a private farm in Delaware County. “I love all wildlife, but there comes a point where you have to manage them so they don’t destroy the landscape,” he says, noting that hunting in Pennsylvania is “heavily regulated” and that people aren’t after trophies to hunt. Talbot, who enjoys making venison tacos for his wife and daughters, says, “I haven’t bought red meat in years.” / Photo by Steve Boyle

Pennsylvania is the nation’s third most popular state for deer hunting, and the sport has only seen strong growth since 2020. Deer are plentiful (excessively, with many negative environmental impacts and lots of, well, roadkill); the meat (game) is healthy, tasty and environmentally friendly; and a deer can feed a family of four with many meals. I know because my teenage son stocked our freezer with venison for three years.

How one Getting started

One of the first questions you are likely to have is: Do i need a gun? And you might not like the idea, which is okay. Many, many deer hunters, including my son, use archery gear exclusively. But before you buy a gun, first take the Pennsylvania Hunter Training Course, a requirement for obtaining a hunting license. (Incidentally, the income from these fees goes to conservation.) You will learn all the basics of hunting safety and important rules and regulations. You’ll also meet other people in your area who are interested in hunting, as well as the instructors you might be able to take with you on your next outing. The PA Deer Hunting Facebook group and its 43,000+ members is another good resource.

There are also supervised hunting programs in the state that match you with a certified, experienced hunter who may share equipment with you, which can be a great way to test the waters. I highly recommend going out with a mentor on your first (and second and third) hunts. Email [email protected] for more information.

Where

Every single state forest in Pennsylvania (10 counties in the Greater Philadelphia region make up that State Forest by William Penntotaling approximately 1,700 acres) and most state parks in Pennsylvania (including those nearby French creek, Marsh Creek and Ridley Creek) Allow deer hunting. Deer hunters will tell you this county or that county is best, but when you consider how successful the sponsored hunters are every year at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum, which is right next to Philadelphia International Airport and I-95 , one can say There are many deer to go.

You can also hunt deer on private property as long as you get permission from the landowner. Some homeowners with really, really big gardens in certain areas of Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Bucks counties allow it. (Note that you can’t hunt within 150 yards of a residence; so large lots are required.) And farms in the area — including those nearby, but especially those in farming Lancaster County — are often quick to say Yes, since Hirsch love eat grain.

When to go

State hunting season dates change annually, but generally begin in early fall and last through mid-winter. Plan for a long day: Your best chance of success is at dawn and dusk, so most hunters show up early and go home late. Hopefully with dinner.

equipment guide

We hope you like orange. Arguably the most important item a hunter can own is a selection of fluorescent orange (hunter jargon: bright orange) Clothing, aka the stuff that lets other hunters know you’re human and not a deer when you’re walking through the woods. I guess the importance of that is obvious enough. State laws generally require hunters to wear at least 250 square inches of bright orange on their back, chest, head, or a combination thereof. Buy a fire orange baseball cap and vest and you’re all set.

start-up costs

No less than $500, but realistically closer to $1,000 for your first season. And like most device-intensive hobbies, costs can skyrocket from there.

Published as Call of the Wild: Deer Hunting in the November 2022 issue of Philadelphia Magazine.


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