Bright and dry weather with temperatures in the mid 40s greeted deer hunters afield on the opening day of rifle season Monday. Local butchers and taxidermists stayed busy throughout the afternoon, as the fine conditions led to a good harvest.
"We've gotten in probably 35 or 40 (deer) today - it's been awesome so far, just busy since about 10 this morning," said Chris Cote, manager of the venison processing shop at the Country Store in Pennsdale.
"We've had a couple good sized ones in; we had a 12-point with an 18 1/2-inch spread - but that gentleman didn't want to enter our big buck contest because he saw our document with some of the numbers we've done before."
Cote said the Country Store set a shop record during archery season by processing about 320 deer. The Country Store expects to butcher around 1,000 head during rifle season.
Poust's Taxidermy, of Jersey Shore, had five trophy bucks brought in during the early going Monday, according to owner David Poust.
"We got some real nice ones today - two 10-point bucks and some nice eight-pointers," Poust said. "No monster monsters yet, but we got a lot of them in archery season that were monsters."
Poust has seen a lot of deer seasons since his family founded the shop in 1942. As always, he said, weather will have the final say in how well hunters do this season.
"We expect to do anywhere from 60 to 100, maybe 120 deer during rifle season, but it depends on whether we get some snow or not," Poust said. "Rain and clouds and slippery weather is no good, but when you get a nice little snow of 3 or 4 inches, that improves the kill - we should have a good rifle season if this weather holds."
Gross' Custom Butchering, of Cogan Station, saw a "close to average" harvest early Monday, owner David Gross said.
"We've been steady today. There are about 20 deer in here at this point, with some very nice trophies," Gross said. "We usually have about 100 or so come in by the end of the first day, and we had a really good early season, so we think that will keep up."
Taxidermist Steven Murren, of Hughesville, said he anticipates a good rifle season.
"We usually have about five come in the first day - we do anywhere between 35 and 60 (deer) in a season," Murren said. "People always need to take them to the butcher first and figure out what they're going to do with them, then they come to us."
Not everyone who had Monday off school or work took to the woods wearing safety orange. The Digiplex Cinema Center in downtown Williamsport stayed busy all afternoon with families taking in films together.
"We've had a lot of kids coming in, and families, too, especially for 'Rise of the Guardians,' " said Melanie Heller, Cinema Center first assistant. " 'Lincoln' has been really popular with adults and seniors - it's been very busy, especially for a Monday."
The state's two-week firearm deer season included special restrictions on some central Pennsylvania hunters because of a deadly disease found in captive deer earlier this year.
Hunters who take deer in a 600-square-mile area covering parts of York and Adams counties must have them tested for chronic wasting disease. The neurological infection can't be transmitted to humans but is deadly to elk, moose and deer.
Joe Neville, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said in a telephone interview from a check-in station in Adams County that officials there expected to take samples from the lymph nodes and spines of 200 deer by the end of opening day.
"For most of our hunters it's been a very quick process, five or 10 minutes," Neville said.
Two deer on Adams County farms died of the disease earlier this year, making them the first cases reported in the state. No infections have been reported in the wild population.
About 750,000 hunters are expected to take part in deer season.
For the past 10 years, officials have routinely tested thousands of samples from meat processors to monitor the deer herd for signs of the disease, and this is the first time testing has been required at check-in stations, Neville said.
It is expected to take four to six weeks to get results from the tests, he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story