Harrisburg — Pheasants, Squirrels. Rabbits, Turkeys. Waterfowl.
Junior hunters across Pennsylvania have their own special seasons for each. They are days set aside, before the regular opening day for adults, when they can pursue those species.
Are beavers next? Or maybe muskrats or something else?
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is at least looking into the idea of holding a special junior-only furtaking season of some kind.
That would likely have no biological impact on beavers, as junior trappers take relatively few, said Matt Lovallo, supervisor of the commission’s game mammals section. But there might be some hurdles unique to trapping that will have to be overcome, however.
He outlined a trio of concerns.
First is the traps themselves.
Beaver traps tend to be large, said. They’re typically body-gripping ones, not the kind “young trappers should learn to trap with,” he said.
Second is value. While most trappers don’t participate in the sport only because of the money to be made by selling furs, it’s also true that pelts are worth more at some times of year than others, Lovallo said.
Most trapping seasons are designed to at least overlap with that period of “primeness,” he added.
Creating an early beaver trapping season for kids – the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas has been suggested by some, as kids have some time off from school then – would mean having them take furs that have “very low market value,” Lovallo said.
Third is fairness.
In a typical year 60 to 70 percent of the statewide beaver harvest comes from just five of the state’s 23 wildlife management units: 1A, 1B, 2F, 3C and 3D. So a statewide youth season, Lovallo said, wouldn’t necessarily benefit young trappers equally.
“So I’m not sure how we should move forward on this,” he said.
He suggested the commission convene a meeting with the Pennsylvania Trappers Association and some of its own experts in recruitment and retention strategies before making any decisions.
Commissioners seemed open to pursuing this in some fashion though.
Speaking at the board’s most recent work group meeting, President Brian Hoover, of Chester County, said the idea of a junior furtaking season is something he’d be willing to consider investigating further.
Commissioner Jim Daley, of Butler County, agreed, but said he thinks a junior season is a possibility.
“I guess what I’m encouraged by is we may be able to provide some additional opportunity. I don’t see a real reason not to,” he said.
He asked if perhaps it would make sense to offer the season for some other species than beavers.
Junior furtakers do have more success on other species, Lovallo said. They take more raccoons than anything, followed by muskrats, opossums, mink, red foxes and skunks.
Daley asked about perhaps a youth muskrat season then.
Hoover, though, mentioned that muskrat populations in Pennsylvania and elsewhere are reportedly in decline. He’d not want to worsen that, he noted.
“I wouldn’t want to see us impact the resource,” he noted.
But he said he’s willing to have a meeting of interested parties – he said it would be a “good start” – to see if there are ways to incorporate a junior furtaking season into the schedule.
Daley said he’d like to see that, too, as trapping participation among juniors is trending down. Perhaps a special opportunity could slow or stop that, he added.