Pa. hunter reflects on what’s in a name, harvests 3 deer, bear this fall

Brian Whipkey
Pennsylvania Outdoor Columnist

Sometimes a person’s future is determined at an early age.

For a South Sterling, Wayne County, man, his passion for hunting was partially engraved on his birth certificate.

Buck Strunk, 28, grew up in a hunting family and at one time lived on 111 Buck Lane. While it’s not a surprise he enjoys hunting in Pennsylvania, he is fortunate to be experiencing an incredible archery season this fall.

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Buck Strunk of Wayne County holds the 10-point he harvested Nov. 2 in eastern Pennsylvania.

Since Oct. 2, Strunk has taken a 10-point buck, a black bear and two doe at short distances with his crossbow.

“My dad’s a big hunter and my grandfather’s a big hunter, my cousins hunt and we’re all big hunters so much so that he named me Buck,” he said.

He started hunting was he was 12 and was able to harvest a doe with a single shot .410 shotgun slug while hunting with his dad (John). “Ever since then, I was hooked,” Buck Strunk said.

He then picked up a bow to start hunting and then moved to a crossbow. He explained his father always used a crossbow as he had injury that prevented him from effectively using a different style bow like a recurve or compound setup. “Both styles of bows offer pros and cons,” Strunk said.

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With his crossbow, he takes only one bolt (arrow for a crossbow) with him to the woods. He explained that he has to use a cocking device to pull back the string and can’t do that well from a tree stand. If he shoots, he has to go to his car and home and get set up again.

Regarding archery season, he said, “I live for those first frosty mornings in November.”

He said it took a few years to hone his archery skills and woodsmanship as he wants the deer to be under 20 yards when he releases a broadhead toward the animal.

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His first-ever buck was an 8-point he harvested on state game lands property. “I got one, I got one!” he remembers exclaiming in excitement to his family. He has hunted over the years around the Poconos and State Game Lands 186.

2021 archery season

Fast forward to 2021, and the archery season started off well. The first day, Oct. 2, he was hunting in an old apple orchard and was able to take a doe. On Oct. 18, he filled a second doe tag on a property near his home.

Buck Strunk with his black bear he shot Oct. 23 with a crossbow in eastern Pennsylvania.

He was hunting for deer when a black bear walked toward his stand on Oct. 23. He said he’s seen plenty of bear over the years, but never during bear season.  “When I turned around there he was,” he said about the surprise encounter."

His bear had an estimated live weight of 185 pounds. “It was eating very well,” he said about the boar’s body mass.

He said there are a few bear in the region. His wife, Kamila, actually hit another bear Friday with their vehicle while driving home.

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On another hunt a few years ago, a bear walked in and put a front paw on the ladder of the stand Strunk was sitting in. “I stomped on the ladder stand told him to ‘get out of here’ and he ran off,”  he said. “I’ve seen a lot of bear in my lifetime.”

His family has been enjoying the bear meat. “It’s like the best pork you’ve ever had,” he said, adding that some of the meat was made into jerky and sausage.

Strunk attributes part of his success to changes happening with the hunting regulations. The Pennsylvania Game Commission has created longer black bear seasons, including the archery season.

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October, he said, is when things really pick up. “The bears are moving and feeding hardcore,” he said about the bruin’s need for building up fat to hibernate over the winter months.

A couple weeks later he was back in the same stand on Nov. 2 and made a couple calls with a can-shaped deer call and he had placed doe urine in the area. A nice 10-point soon swaggered into his shooting lanes. “He put on a show like a spring gobbler,” Strunk said about the buck strutting to show his dominance to other deer. “He was making a scrape (with a front hoof) … and I could see all his muscles bulging.”

The buck made a lip curl to check the air and then walked into an area that provided a good shot opportunity at 15 yards. “He had bright antlers that stood up over his ears. … He was a beautiful animal,” Strunk said.

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After the shot, the deer bolted off. “I couldn’t contain myself,” he said about feeling of excitement, emotion and thinking, “I smoked him.”

He gave the trophy-sized deer time to expire, texted his wife and went home. Strunk contacted a friend, and they found the deer about 40 yards from where he was shot.

The area he hunts is well suited to hold game. One of the doe, the buck and the bear were all harvested from the same tree. He likes the excitement of close encounters and says he likes to hunt from the ground or only go up about 10 feet in a tree. “There’s nothing more exciting than taking an animal on the ground,” he said about being eye-level with the wary animals.

He credits the vacation policy at his employer, Amazon, as well as his wife and mother who are able to watch their children as he follows his passion for the outdoors. “I save all my (vacation) time off for hunting season.”

When deciding to hunt, he looks at weather forecasts and tries to go when cold fronts are moving in to the area. He said the deer move more often when a cold front is coming through.

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His family enjoys wild game meat. His parents, John and Ann, are both good at butchering and processing the meat. “It’s a real team effort,” he said.

His sights are now set on the spring gobbler season. He said if he shoots a turkey, he will have completed a hunting grand slam of getting a buck, bear and turkey in the same license year.

“I’m just grateful to be able to get out,” he said about hunting. “I can’t wait for next year and all the hype that goes with” planning archery hunts.

For the future, he’s planning to introduce his young son and daughter to the outdoors when they get older. “I hope my kids grow up to be sportsmen,” he said about wanting them to be respectful and ethical hunters.

Brian Whipkey is the outdoor columnist for USA Today Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at bwhipkey@gannett.com and sign up for our weekly Outdoors Newsletter email on your website's homepage under your login name.