From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

Antlered Female Deer


Reports of antlered female white-tailed, black-tailed, and mule deer go back more than a century and have been noted throughout the whitetail’s range.  Prevalence data vary.  It was reported that 1 in 4437 “bucks” were actually antlered females harvested in Pennsylvania.  Thirty years ago, it was generalized as 1 in every 1000-1100 adult females had antlers. However, reports of antlered females have not increased with the increase in either-sex harvest across the whitetail range.

Most antlered females have velvet-covered pedicels or small spikes with some branching, and can produce fawns. Antler development is a complex interaction of hormonal cues.  Researchers have noted that females can have a testosterone surge caused by a hormone imbalance, first pregnancy, tumors, or degenerative conditions of the ovaries or adrenal glands. This single surge can cause the growth of antlers in velvet.  Postmortem examination by researchers around the country indicates that does with antlers in velvet tend to be reproductively functional, or to have complete but malformed reproductive tracts, or to be true hermaphrodites in which the ovaries are more developed than the testes.

Adult females with hardened antlers have been reported but far less frequently than those with velvet antlers.  These animals are usually males possessing female external genitalia.  These animals are likely a male pseudo-hermaphrodites – teats present but unlikely to have ovaries or uterus with testes and penis present but not externally visible.  A case in South Carolina described a six-point with antlers in velvet that externally appeared to be a doe but only vulva, clitoris, vagina, and cervix were present.  The testes were located in the body cavity.

Jeannine Tardiff Fleegle

Wildlife Biologist, Deer & Elk Management Section

PA Game Commission

Black Bear

Today at noon during a live Facebook video, Big Game Scoring Program Coordinator Bob D’Angelo will demonstrate how to properly score a black bear skull.

He will be available to answer your questions at the end. Just type them into the comments section under the video. We hope you can join us today, but if not the video will be recorded and posted for later viewing.


Learn How to Score Your Buck

Do you want to learn how to score your buck antlers?

Friday at noon, join us LIVE on Facebook as Pennsylvania Big Game Scoring Program Coordinator Bob D’Angelo demonstrates the official scoring process.

There will be a short question and answer period following the demonstration.

This video will also be recorded for later viewing on the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Facebook page. You do not have to to have a Facebook account to view the public video.


Bubba Was Here


He’s of prime age and is available. He hangs with the bucks in the Yoak gang, but he is not the biggest or the baddest. He passed by on Tues. at 3 o’clock.

This is a lot to communicate, but deer can get this information from a quick whiff at any signpost. Bucks place signposts— licking branches, rubs and scrapes—year-round throughout their territory. Because bucks and does travel in different social circles, signposts facilitate communications for both sexes.

In the spring and summer, when tender new antlers are developing under a cushion of velvet, bucks communicate through the communal licking of branches. These branches usually are located over a trail or along the edge of a field, just above normal deer height. By mouthing the branch and sometimes rubbing it with their forehead or preorbital glands, bucks smell and taste “notes” left by other deer. Identities, status and social bonding can all be gathered through the nose. During summer, the licking branches are used by all bucks in the area, dominant or not; a one-stop gossip rag for all the deer in the neighborhood.

After their headgear has hardened and the velvet begins to shed, bucks begin tearing and rubbing the bark off bushes and trees with their antlers. Rubbing during and shortly after velvet loss is violent, as bucks thrash bushes to get a feel for what has been growing on their heads all summer. As the rut progresses, rubbing evolves into the more typical, highly visual buck rub. Once the rub is complete, bucks anoint it with their forehead gland. Some rubs are used year after year. Age plays a factor in rub making. Yearlings typically rub saplings no more than two to three inches in diameter, while a mature buck may rub trees six inches or larger. This work doesn’t go unnoticed, as bucks and does visit rubs.

The most complex signpost bucks use is a scrape. It is used most intensely just before the peak of the rut. A full scrape involves branch marking, pawing and urination. A scrape starts with an overhanging limb on which a buck will rub his forehead or preorbital gland. If the mood strikes him, he’ll even rattle the branch with his antlers. He takes the twig in his mouth and moistens it, thereby leaving his mark and detecting the mark of others using the scrape. Then he clears a 3- to 6-foot circle by pawing the ground, steps into the circle and urinates onto his tarsal glands while rubbing them together. Usually, only mature dominant bucks produce a significant number of scrapes. So while the whitetail spends its days in relative silence, plenty is being said. You just have to look, lick or smell.

By: J.T. Fleegle

Wildlife Biologist

-This article was originally posted in the Life & Times of the Whitetail.

Pennsylvania Elk Hunting FAQ


Applying for an Elk License

  • How do I apply for and check the status of an elk license application? Applicants can make application and check on the status of an elk license application through the Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS) at Click the first radio button, scroll to the bottom of the page, click ‘Start Here’ and follow the prompts.
  • Which “preferred” hunt zone should I select? This is a matter of individual preference. Hunters have successfully harvested elk in every hunt zone. Carefully examine each zone considering road access and the amount of available public and private land. Note that your preferred hunt zone has no influence on your chances of being drawn. For example, if you select Zone 2 and are drawn after Zone 2 has been filled, you’ll simply be assigned to the next available zone. For more details, consult the Elk Hunt Zone Map Book (PDF), Annual Elk Harvest Maps, the Game Commission Mapping Center and maps of the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources’ state forests. Apply Online. The Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS) is the site to apply for the elk license drawing and check the status of your application. Preference points can also be checked through PALS.
  • What are preference points? Preference points are accumulated for each unsuccessful application; you won’t see an accumulated point for the current year’s application. You can check your preference points through the Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS) at Click the first radio button, scroll to the bottom of the page, click ‘Start Here’ and follow the prompts. If you believe there is an error, please contact the License Division at 717-787-2084. If you did not apply for an elk tag this year, your preference points will not expire; preference points are only lost if you are successfully drawn for an elk tag. You must apply in the current year to be entered into the drawing.
  • When is the license drawing? The annual drawing for elk licenses is scheduled to take place Saturday Aug. 20 during the Elk Expo at the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette. Successful applicants who provide a phone number or email will be notified promptly by those methods, others will receive notification by postal mail.

Information for elk hunters


  • What are the elk hunting regulations? Please consult the current Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest for details about this year’s elk hunt.
  • How do I find an elk check station? Harvested elk need to be taken to the elk check station within 24 hours. The Elk Check Station is located at the Old Benezette School House in Elk County on the north side of Route 555 in Benezette on the west side of Trout Run. GPS Coordinates are 41.3154 N and 78.3874 W. Cell coverage on the elk range is sparse. Elk Check Station (map) (PDF)
  • How do I find permitted elk hunting guides? Elk Guides are regulated by the Game Commission and the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources and offer various services to the hunter. Those individuals drawn for elk licenses will be provided a list of permitted guides before the hunt, although guides are not required. Employing the services of an elk guide/outfitter is completely up to the hunter
  • How much does an adult elk weigh? An adult bull may weigh 600-1,000 pounds and an adult cow may weigh 400-600 pounds. Part of your hunt plan should include how to field-dress and move the animal from the kill site to your vehicle and on to the check station. Regulations prohibit the use of motorized vehicles, including ATVs on state-owned property, with few exceptions. The animal may be skinned and quartered and packed out by horses or mules or on pack boards. Hunters should bring plenty of help. Any number of unlicensed persons may accompany hunters as long as they wear the required fluorescent orange and do not participate in the hunt itself or carry a firearm. Persons just accompanying an elk hunter are not required to have an elk guide permit.
    Table – License Issued and Harvest Success
  • Where can I get detailed information about individual elk hunt zone boundaries? There are several options for this, but the best place to view the elk hunt zones in detail is through the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s online Mapping Center. Through the online mapping program hunters can add a variety of backgrounds including aerial photos, topographic maps and roads. A second option is to download a detailed elk hunt zone map book  (PDF 15MB) directly from the Game Commission’s website. And a third option is to examine State Forest maps available online or at each State Forests headquarters.

*Information taken from the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s elk page.

Saving a Life- How to Feed and Care for a Fawn

Being little is hard. Here’s how to lend a helping hand.


Babies of all shapes and sizes are popping up everywhere.  Fawns are arguably the cutest ones of the bunch. But they are so little and helpless and often abandoned.  If you come across one of these frail creatures, here’s how you can help.

LEAVE IT ALONE! A “saved” fawn is a dead fawn.

The peak of fawning season for adult does (>1 year old) is May 30 with 90% giving birth from May 12th to June 27th.  For fawns (those bred when they were 6 months old and giving birth at 1 year old), the peak is June 19 with 90% giving birth from May 22nd to August 4th.

There are going to be a lot of fawns out there soon. They are not abandoned.  They are not in trouble.  They do not need to be saved by any person!

During the first few weeks of life, does only associate with their fawns briefly usually at sunrise and sunset with fawns nursing only 2 or 3 times a day.  A Fawn selects its own bedding location away from its mother and moves this hiding place frequently ALL BY ITSELF.  The doe is usually within about 90 meters of her resting fawn and makes contact only to nurse.

People often think fawns are abandoned or cold or sick or lonely.  Do it a favor and leave it alone. This is the best way to increase its odds of survival.

Because bad things happened when people mess with wildlife – like imprinting.  Have you read the recent story of the bison calf loaded in a tourist’s SUV in Yellowstone because they thought it looked cold?  Instead of saving the calf, they signed its death certificate.

A doe will imprint upon her fawns in a few hours.  If this critical period is interrupted, the imprinting process breaks down and may lead to abandonment.  But, fawns take several days or longer to imprint on mom.  During this interim, fawns risk being attracted to almost any large moving object – even people.  That’s why does are secretive and aggressive during fawn rearing.

It may be difficult but people need to let fawns be.  If, in fact, the fawn has been abandoned for some reason, nature will “take its course.”  Based on research conducted in Pennsylvania, 57 percent of fawns born in north central Pennsylvania (forested areas) and 72 percent of fawns born in central Pennsylvania (agricultural areas) survive through the summer.  This means that between 28-43% of fawns will not live to 6 months of age in Pennsylvania. The majority of this mortality occurs before they are 3 months old.  Mortality factors include predators, starvation, failure to nurse, infections, and parasites.  It is a harsh reality.

However, in the wild, fawns have a fighting chance. In the arms of a person, they are as good as dead.

So lend a helping hand by keeping YOUR HANDS to yourself. Look but do not touch and you can save a life!

Jeannine Tardiff Fleegle

Wildlife Biologist, Deer & Elk Section

Pennsylvania Game Commission