The deer harvest was generally up, bucks were older and getting larger, and $20 million in revenue was earned through industrial leases, according the state Game Commission's 2014 annual report to the legislature.
In his first address to the House Game and Fisheries Committee, new executive director Matt Hough said an estimated 343,110 deer were taken in combined 2012-13 seasons (336,200 in 2011-12). The antlered harvest of 133,860 was up 5 percent, and 209,250 antlerless deer were killed, about same as during the 2011-12 harvest.
The percentage of harvested bucks age 2 1/2 years and older was up since the implementation of antler restrictions, he said, and the crossbow impact on the archery harvest was significant.
"Archery hunters were responsible for 32 percent of the total antlered deer harvest, and 48 percent of the archery antlered harvest was taken by individuals using crossbows," Hough said.
While the agency faced challenges, increased revenue from industrial leases, bonus payments and royalties on State Game Lands contributed to a relatively solid financial standing.
Ammo prices down
Around the holidays ammunition prices were through the roof -- that's if you could find ammo at all. At gun shops and big box outfitters, many shelves were literally empty.
Buddy Savage, owner of Braverman Arms in Wilkinsburg, said the market is "still in flux -- very, very hard to read," but the trend is for greater availability and cheaper prices.
"It was unreal, some of the prices out there," he said. "The bottom line is, it's maxed itself out. There's much more availability now than just a few weeks ago. I feel [prices] are coming down -- it's changing almost by the day."
Although some hoarding has occurred for several years -- many consumers have stocked up fearing a federal gun and ammunition crackdown -- Savage said the recent supply problem was to some degree related to massive ammunition purchases by the federal government.
"There was a big demand on ammunition manufacturers and their facilities by the government," he said. "It's good pay, and some of the contracts were so overwhelming, they had to go with the government. I think they're now to the point where they're satisfying the government and letting commercial production take over."
Much of the current demand is for smaller calibers used in military-style rifles popular with bench shooters. Demand for common hunting calibers is likely to increase in the spring.