Plenty of hunting and fishing opportunities after Christmas in Pennsylvania

When I was young, the only winter hunting available was a week after Christmas, which offered hunters a chance to once again pursue rabbits and squirrels.

It was a week I anticipated excitedly after I became old enough to legally hunt on my own. Usually, the vast fields, with their wide and dense edge rows, and the scattered woodlots surrounding my family’s home were snow-covered, and the sighting of fresh tracks of the tasty game I chased always added vigor and speed to my step and that of the beagles that were my companions.

The only negative to the whole experience was the fact that the season ended on New Year’s Day, and my hunting was over until the season for doves opened around Labor Day. But boy, has that changed.

Hunters have many more opportunities in winter now.

Just considering where I live in the southeastern portion of the state, there is a long list of game animals with lengthy open seasons. Extended seasons for rabbits, pheasants and squirrels are available for small-game hunters. (There is no longer an extended grouse season because of low numbers of that species.)

Waterfowl, with open seasons for ducks until Jan. 20, for Canada geese until the end of January, and snow geese until late April, are on the list. Currently, Canada geese are passing through the area near my home in large numbers, and local hunters are doing well in large spent-grain fields. And just the other day, a flock of about 1,000 snow geese stopped by a local pond with a nearby corn-stubble field for a short rest and energy replenishment before heading in a southeast direction toward their wintering grounds.

That sighting stirred thoughts of the spring season for light geese.

Trapping seasons are in full swing, and what seems to be an ever-growing craze among hunters, predator hunting for fox — with a season until mid-February — and coyotes, especially at night, is an option.

Deer hunting, which in my youth was long over at this time of year, sees an extended period of opportunity in the southeast with flintlock and archery seasons, and a regular firearms season until late in January in special regulations zones.

And although I was never much of an ice fisherman, frozen-water angling is an option, along with open waters that offer a long list of game fish available for cold-weather fishing.

Hunters and fishermen across this state can no longer legitimately complain that winter leaves them with nothing to do. So get out there.

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