Let the debating, exaggerating and the prognosticating begin.
Just like the daffodils emerging from the ground, the robins snacking on backyard worms and trout anglers lining the area's stream banks, the release of the Game Commission's annual deer harvest estimates is a sure-fire sign of spring.
The headline this year is the overall harvest was up by about 3 percent from last year's figures. In all, the state's hunters killed an estimated 352,920 whitetails last fall and winter, about 134,280 of them had antlers.
Here in management unit 5B, 7,400 (down from 8,500 last year) antlered and 12,800 (up from 12,500) antlerless deer were taken
For the folks that manage the state's deer herd, the release of these figures is a can't-win event. If the figure rises, they are told we killed too many deer. If it dips, they hear cries about the state's dwindling deer population and how "there are so few deer in our woods."
All in all, there weren't any surprises in this year's figures. The weather for the state's opening day of firearms season was decent across the state and there were no major changes to the rules that could send numbers jumping in either direction. It is status quo and that's a good thing for the state's deer herd.
But to be fair, the figures in the Commission's report are just well-calculated guesses. The agency doesn't know exactly how many deer were killed. But that's not the fault of the Commission or its employees. It is the fault of the state's hunters. Many among our ranks are too lazy to take a minute or two of their time to report their harvests.
This year, the Commission received just more than 110,000 harvest report cards through its online reporting system and its traditional mail-based program. Commission personnel checked another 25,000 deer. That means to get the above estimated figure, the Commission had to assume just one third of the state's hunters reported their kills.
That's not a figure any of us should be proud of. So many hunters complain about this or that when it comes to the state's deer management, but when they have a very real, very easy shot at helping the situation, they can't take the effort. Or they purposely refuse to give the Commission the information it needs to make smart decisions.
Unless you followed the rules and filled out your harvest report card, you have no right to complain if you don't like this year's figures. There are all sorts of variables that impact annual deer-harvest figures. One of them should not be uncooperative hunters.
— Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.