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Penn State Deer Study Reveals How Deer React to Hunters

Trib Live

Do deer really act differently during the hunting season? Biologists at Penn State say, yes. 

The Penn State deer study is being conducted by the college’s department of agricultural studies with the intent of studying deer-population management in the Keystone State.

Currently in its second year, the study will go on for five years, and so far, biologists have documented a certain change in the behavior of deer during the hunting season.

Several collars have been attached to does and bucks that live in the Bald Eagle, Rothrock and Susquehannock state forests to better understand this behavioral alteration. These collars track deer movements through GPS and transmit signals regarding their location every few hours in the summer, fall and spring, and more frequently during the archery and firearm seasons.

Duane Diefenbach, leader of the Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, told reporters of their early observations:

…there’s nothing to suggest these deer are being impacted by the hunting that’s going on to any great extent. But once the rifle season begins, we see some pretty dramatic differences. Some of these bucks will leave their home range and go places we’ve never seen them in the previous 10 months. It’s pretty amazing.

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These changes seem to occur exclusively during the week of the firearm hunting season. but where do the deer go? According to Chris Rosenberry, head of the deer and elk section for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, deer have been going wherever hunters can’t, don’t or won’t go.

The Penn State deer study subjects are making good use of their hiding spots, as only 10 percent of collared does and merely 20 percent of collared bucks have been harvested so far.

“The odds are stacked against the hunter,” Rosenberry told reporters. “These deer are not nearly as predictable as hunters would like them to be.”

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Penn State Deer Study Reveals How Deer React to Hunters