What are the odds that Vermont resident Matt Niklaus only would pay $1.70 to hunt in Pennsylvania this year?
Thanks to a $100 reward from a tagged deer he shot on Nov. 30 in Pine Township during rifle season, he left the state with a little money in his pocket.
On top of being tagged with a $100 reward, the buck sported a very unique, atypical rack that was fused and webbed on one side and unevenly short on the other.
According to a state Game Commission study being done in four Wildlife Management Units across Pennsylvania, the deer originated from State Game Lands 75 in Pine Township, which is in WMU 2G.
The buck first was captured on March 28, 2009, by using a rocket net, according to Dr. Christopher S. Rosenberry, supervisor of the deer and elk section of the Game Commission.
"The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of changing the firearms season from a 12-day antlered and antlerless concurrent season to a five-day antlered only/seven-day antlered and antlerless concurrent season," Rosenberry explained.
During the four years of the study, Rosenberry said, the Game Commission has captured more than 2,000 whitetails in those four WMUs.
"This deer was captured as part of our field work in WMU 2G. This location was one of our most eastern trapping locations, and we did this to ensure deer were distributed throughout WMU 2G," Rosenberry said.
The buck was 4 1/2 years old when it was shot and what surprised Rosenberry was that it lived through that many hunting seasons.
"However, this type of high survival (rate) is not unusual in this part of the state, as we have seen it with many other bucks," Rosenberry said. "In fact, a few years ago, we pulled teeth and had ages of more than 5,500 bucks determined via microscopic techniques, and the oldest buck was 10 1/2 years of age from this same WMU."
The data received from the deer includes the harvest rate.
"In other words, when combined with other tagged deer, we can estimate the harvest rate of antlered deer in WMU 2G," he said.
This is used to monitor the deer populations and the effects of the change in the firearms season.
The deer in this study were captured January through April, during the winter, which Rosenberry said is the best time to do so.
"They are more likely to come to bait," he said. "Once the spring green-up occurs and more alternative food sources are available, deer become difficult to capture."
The deer are captured with a rocket net, which is a 40- by 60-foot net attached to three rockets. The rockets are filled with a propellant that, when ignited, lifts the rockets off the ground, carrying the net over the deer.
As for the $100 reward offered to hunters for harvesting a tagged deer, it's all about actively getting that information to the Game Commission.
This deer's ear had a tag with a special number designated to that animal and a 877 phone to call to collect the reward.
"In previous studies with pheasants, doves and turkeys, it was determined that a $100 reward was needed to ensure - as much as possible - that a person would take the time to call the toll-free number to the report the animal," Rosenberry said.
He said he was not surprised to find that one of the bucks in the study sported a unique set of antlers.
"Certainly, the rack was unusual, but after nearly 20 years of full-time work and observation of the white-tailed deer, I don't know that antler conformation surprises me," he said.
"Antler growth is a complex process that is not fully understood. The mysteries of their growth and variety of shapes and sizes are what (makes) them fascinating," he said.