Especially by the standards of the New England region, the Bay State has an enviable record of putting deer into archery hunting’s most prestigious record book.
With only 14 counties totaling a meager 5 million acres, Massachusetts is the 40th-largest state in the U.S.
So this isn’t an expansive place.
Still, there’s a lot of bowhunting available, and not all of it is in the rugged Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts.
Although all of the counties with the highest P&Y numbers lie inland, such bucks have been taken in every part of the state.
Even such vacation hotspots as Martha’s Vineyard have turned out some impressive deer over the years.
Worcester (49) leads the way, with Berkshire and Middlesex (35 each) tying for second place.
They’re barely ahead of Hampden (32) and Hampshire (30) in rounding out the state’s top five trophy producers.
Whether there’s been a shift toward bigger bucks in the eastern part of the state is hard to say, but entries have clearly shifted in that direction.
Like many other states bordering the Atlantic, Massachusetts features higher, more rugged landforms in its western reaches.
For many, Sunday may be one of the only days off during the week, free from work commitments and other obligations.
While some may choose to relax with a book, others would like to spend the day in the woods hunting, but some states have regulations that keep Sunday hunting under strict control.
Pennsylvania is one of those states, and a group of hunters are trying to change that stipulation for a third time.
Third attempt keeps “white-tailed deer” out of the request Last weekend, the Pennsylvania Sunday Hunting Working Group met at the Pennsylvania Game Commission headquarters to discuss the possibilities of opening up Sunday hunting beyond the already approved game.
“This will be the first time an organized grassroots effort will be formed.
Hunters from around the state will bring overwhelming support to move either regulatory authority to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, or at a minimum we will bring pressure on the legislators to move additional species into the exempted status, allowing the [commission] to establish additional Sunday hunting opportunity,” Harold Daub, a Halifax hunter education instructor and one of the hunters behind the working group, told PennLive.com.
Right now, hunters are allowed to hunt foxes, crows and coyotes on Sundays.
During the public meeting, Daub proposed “adding groundhogs, pheasants, rabbits, squirrels and waterfowl, but not deer” to the approved list, PennLive.com reports.
By purposely omitting white-tailed deer from the proposed change, the hope is that hunters who were against the initial proposal will change their minds now that they don’t have to worry about “more hunting pressure on what they perceive as an already depleted deer herd,” according to PennLive.com.
The next steps of the newly established Pennsylvania Sunday Hunting Working Group include agreeing to a clear mission for the group to follow, establishing sponsorships and deciding on regional- and county-level leadership so that the group can branch out across the state.
Through a combination of hard work and smarter searching, you can start to close that gap between the number of sheds on the ground and the number you actually find.
But if you want the most antlers for your efforts, wait until you know the majority of bucks have dropped both sides.
Spot a bunch of bald bucks, and it’s time to go scoop up some antlers.
“But to me, shed hunting is a lot like early- and late- season hunting; you want to know where bucks are bedding.
You might not walk as far, but you’ll probably find more horns.
Wait for an overcast day, and you’ll spot horns you’d walked past in harsh sunlight.
Of course, we have to shed hunt whenever we have the time, and if that means a sunny day, don’t stay home.
Keep working tried-and-true spots until you are sure deer are done dropping antlers.
I find more antlers in these spots after a low-snow winter, and I think it’s because bucks are traveling widely as they switch to different food sources throughout the season.
I’ve found many road sheds over the years, and most follow a similar pattern: I slow way down when I know I’m approaching a fence jump, farm field, or ditch crossing, and then just scan for anything that looks antler-ish.
So I Googled “great blog posts” and found a list of “101 topics that will make your blog hot.” For obvious reasons, number 80 was my favorite: “Abandon your blog for a week and make others think what happened to you.
To put that in perspective, when I started in 1987, my Browning Double Auto loaded with Remington short magnum 5s would and did kill a turkey at 35 yards.
Full-choke 3-inch magnums might kill to 40.
Effective turkey gun range has almost doubled in 30 years.
A turkey at 50 yards could just as well have been on Mars when I started hunting.
Now it’s a dead bird, and while I’m not proud of taking 50-yard shots, I’ve made four or five, and believe they are totally ethical and within the killing power of my gun, which I have patterned a lot.
Does that mean we should all let fly at 70-yard turkeys as if they were standing 40 yards away?
First, recognize that even a shot as basic as hitting a stationary turkey with a shot pattern gets harder with every yard, and 70 is a lot of yards.
Second, you need to spend a lot of time at the range with your gun, fooling with chokes, sights, and ammo to come up with a combination that is reliable at 70.
There’s no denying the effectiveness of Longbeard and TSS, and I’m not going to pretend we can’t kill turkeys a lot farther away than we used to.