Thursday, January 26th, 2023
Thursday, January 26th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Seasons extended for small-game hunting

Harrisburg — Pennsylvania game commissioners are fond of pointing out that their agency is about way more than deer. They also like to emphasize that they listen to hunters.

That was on display at the April 10 meeting.

Perhaps the most significant action the commissioners took that didn’t relate to deer was to vote to extend the late-season segments of the squirrel, ring-necked pheasant and cottontail rabbit seasons.

In the 2015-16 license year, those seasons will end on Feb. 29.

According to Commissioner Jay Delaney, of Luzerne County, the change was triggered by testimony given the day before by four hunters, who noted that a number of other states end rabbit seasons annually on the last day of February. They reported that  the majority of rabbits harvested during the late season are males.

Game Commission staff advised commissioners there is no biological evidence to suggest adverse impacts will result from adding another week or more to a season that initially was proposed to end on Feb. 20. 

“I introduced this season extension based on the comments of the rabbit hunters who came here yesterday and specifically asked us to consider this,” said Delaney. 

“My  point is, that’s why we have public comment,  because it gives the board additional thoughts and insight into issues. I credit the rabbit hunters who came here yesterday and I urge my fellow commissioners to support this proposal.”

Treestands to be tagged

In addition, commissioners finalized a regulation that has drawn a lot of attention. Treestands and portable hunting blinds left on game lands and other public-access hunting properties under the Game Commission’s management now must be marked to identify the owner.

Under existing regulation, treestands and portable blinds may be set up and left on state game land and other commission-managed property, but stands and blinds must be removed no later than two weeks after the close of the final deer-hunting season within that wildlife management unit.

However, many stands statewide are left out beyond that deadline each year and on some public access tracts, they seem to be becoming permanent fixtures, the commissioners said.

The new regulation will make the owners of such stands and blinds identifiable. Stands and blinds placed on game lands and other commission-managed hunting property must be conspicuously marked with a durable and legible identification tag that includes the owner’s first and last name and legal home address, or in the alternative, bears the CID number appearing on the owner’s hunting license, or a number issued by the commission to the stand or blind owner.

Fall turkey changes OK’d

Commissioners also gave final approval to fall turkey seasons for 2015 and spring gobbler dates for 2016. They included some changes.

The slate of turkey seasons approved reduces the length of the fall seasons three weeks to two weeks in five wildlife management units – 2E, 3D, 4A, 4B and 4D.

In addition to a two-week fall season, the three-day Thanksgiv-ing season would continue to be held in those unitss.

Game Commission staff told board members that both the spring harvest density and the summer sighting index have declined in those units, necessitating a decrease in season length.

Otter trapping season OK’d

Commissioners also gave final approval to a limited otter trapping season in two wildlife management units that allows for a conservative harvest of otters for the first time in Pennsylvania in more than a half-century.

With the vote, otters can be harvested by licensed furtakers who also obtain a separate otter permit.

The otter season will be just three days long – from Feb. 21-23 2016 – with an option for the commission to extend the season by an additional five days. 

Those with a valid permit will be able to harvest, by trapping only, one otter during the season. The season will be open only in units 3C and 3D, in the northeastern part of the state.

Otter trapping regulations largely follow those for beavers. Only raw native wood or stone may be used to direct the travel of otters, and manmade materials may be used only to support traps or snares. An otter permit will cost $6.70.

New initiatives named

Commissioners directed agency staff to prepare reports about possible new hunting opportunities for mentored youth.

Commissioner Delaney asked staff to prepare a report on the possibility of adding cottontail rabbits to the list of species mentored youth are permitted to hunt. The Pennsylvania Beagle Gundog Federation in January requested the commissioners consider such a measure.

Commissioner Brian Hoover, of Delaware County, asked that staff prepare a similar report regarding the possibility of adding mourning doves to the list of species that could be hunted by mentored youth.

Finally, in an initiative that does involve deer, Commissioner Timothy Layton, of Somerset  County, reported that commissioners will continue to negotiate with state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources officials about the Deer Management Assistance Program and DMAP permits issued for state forests managed by DCNR. 

Commissioners have indicated that they would like to rein in the number of DMAP doe tags issued to the department in areas where hunters complain bitterly about low deer numbers.

“I remain hopeful that we can come to some kind of understanding with DCNR, but we have put in place a different format  for authorization of the DMAP permits,” Layton said.

“Those requests will be sent to the regional office to be reviewed by the biologist there, and then the regional director will look them over and forward them to the committee that has been established by the board of commissioners. 

“And that committee will give final approval to those allocations.”

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