Change to start of firearms deer season approved

For the first time in more than 50 years, Pennsylvania’s firearms deer season will open on a day other than the Monday after Thanksgiving.

In voting Tuesday, April 9 to adopt seasons and bag limits for the 2019-20 license year, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners established a firearms deer season to begin Saturday, Nov. 30, the Pennsylvania Game Commission said in a news release.

Moving the opening day to Saturday will create an expanded, 13-day season that includes three Saturdays.

In recent months, the Game Commission received and reviewed a plethora of public comment on the issue, and hunters’ opinions clearly were split. Many of those supporting the move to a Saturday opener said they are unable to hunt on a Monday opener because they are unable to take off work or school to do so. Many of those who supported sticking with a Monday opener cited logistical concerns with traveling to their hunting camps during the Thanksgiving weekend.

The commissioners also were split on the issue.

Commissioner James Daley, who represents the Game Commission’s District 1, made an amendment to retain the opening day as the Monday after Thanksgiving, Dec. 2. And Commissioners Tim Layton, District 4, and Michael Mitrick, District 6, voted with Daley in support of the Monday opener.

The rest of the board voted for the Saturday opener, with the 5-3 tally carrying the vote. And the final list of 2019-20 seasons and bag limits that included a Saturday opener was approved by 7-1 margin, with Daley voting against.

Commissioner Brian Hoover, who represents District 8, and who voted for the Saturday opener, said that the level of support or opposition to move varied from one part of the state to the next. Hoover said, in his region, there was little opposition to the move, and Commissioner Stanley Knick Jr., said the same of Region 7.

Hoover said he also feels a Saturday opener in which more hunters can participate is good for hunter recruitment, which is a big part of why it was proposed in the first place.

“We need to look to the future concerning our hunters and bringing in more youth,” Hoover said.

The commissioners said the Game Commission in the coming year will track the response to a Saturday opener through license sales, deer harvest and comments about the change.

It was one of a number of modifications to hunting as the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners gave final approval to hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits for the 2019-20 license year.

Other modifications adopted for the 2019-20 seasons include:

  • Shortening to two days the late-November turkey seasons to accommodate a Saturday firearms deer opener.
  • Expanding the mid-October muzzleloader and special firearms deer seasons to include bears statewide.
  • Increasing to two weeks the length of the statewide archery bear season and shifting it to the two weeks following the muzzleloader and special firearms bear seasons.
  • Expanding four-day extended bear seasons to seven days in most wildlife management units (WMUs) where they are held.
  • Expanding the late archery and flintlock deer seasons by more than a week, to end on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.
  • Establishing a September archery season and a January antlerless season for elk hunters.
  • Expanding bobcat hunting and trapping seasons to WMU 4B.
  • Extending fisher trapping opportunity to WMU 4A.
  • Extending the fisher trapping season by three days to end Jan. 5.
  • Increasing the season limit on beavers from 20 to 40 in WMUs 2A and 2B.
  • Reducing the length of the porcupine season by about 10 weeks statewide.

The commissioners also set the number of antlerless deer licenses to be allocated, as well as the number of elk licenses to be allocated for the coming license year. The board also voted to issue 142 elk licenses (32 antlered, 110 antlerless) for 2019-20, and two additional elk seasons and lottery drawings for licenses have been added. For the one-week general season to run Nov. 4-9, 27 antlered and 71 antlerless tags have been allocated. An early archery season open only in select Elk Hunt Zones will run from Sept. 14-28, with five antlered and 10 antlerless licenses available. And there are 29 licenses available for a late antlerless-only elk season to run from Jan. 4-11. All licenses will be awarded by lottery, and hunters must apply separately for all seasons they wish to be eligible to hunt. Each application costs $11.90, meaning hunter can enter all three drawings for $35.70. Individuals can be drawn for a maximum of one elk license per license year.

Also April 9, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners gave final approval to a measure that simplifies requirements to wear fluorescent orange material while hunting.

There are no changes to the requirements that apply in many seasons. And the use of orange continues to be highly recommended for all seasons, whether required or not.

The changes will become effective in the 2019-20 license year to begin July 1.

The new regulations eliminate the requirement to wear fluorescent orange at any time while archery hunting for deer, bear or elk. This eliminates all overlap periods when archery hunters were required to wear varying amounts of fluorescent orange while moving or post orange material while in a fixed position.

The regulations also eliminate the requirement for fall turkey hunters to wear fluorescent orange material.

All other seasons would continue with their existing fluorescent orange requirements.

Hunters in deer, bear and elk firearms seasons, small game season, and those hunting coyotes during daylight hours within open deer, bear or elk firearms seasons, must continue to wear, at all times, 250 square inches of daylight fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined, visible 360 degrees. Woodchuck hunters must continue to wear a solid fluorescent orange hat at all times. And hunters in seasons for crows, doves, waterfowl, post-Christmas flintlock deer, spring turkeys and furbearers (with the exception of coyotes as noted above) continue without fluorescent orange requirements.

The requirement to post orange while deer, bear or elk hunting from an enclosed blind also remains.

Commissioners said the changes are intended to clear up the complexity of existing fluorescent orange requirements, which each year result in a significant number of violations detected by State Game Wardens.

Also, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners voted preliminarily to dissolve the Hegins-Gratz Valley Wild Pheasant Recovery Area (WPRA), as well as adjust the boundaries on the state’s two remaining WPRAs, following a final report by Game Commission staff about the WPRA project.

A final vote is scheduled to be taken July 23 as part of the commissioners’ next quarterly meeting.

Also, trappers using snares might soon have more direct guidance on the types of locks that can be used on the devices.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today preliminarily approved a measure that would require snares used to capture beaver and others to be equipped with approved locks, which already are required for cable restraints used to capture foxes and coyotes.

As it is now, the law requires a snare be equipped with “a mechanical sliding metal release lock.”

Categories: Firearms, Hunting News, Turkey, Whitetail Deer

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