The board of the Pennsylvania Game Commission on Saturday tentatively approved a new process to purchase antlerless hunting licenses that reflect this year’s hunting seasons and where hunters can target deer from a disease sanctuary.
Regarding antlerless deer licenses, if approved, hunters would no longer have the option of applying for one through the mail, a process that has existed for five decades.
The Board will consider the following for final approval at its April 15 board meeting:
The new structure would include four opportunity rounds for the limited number of antlerless deer licenses issued for wildlife management units statewide, with sale online at huntfishpa.gov, at any store that is a licensing agent and in offices District Treasurer is available The following days:
- From the fourth Monday in June, all resident hunters can apply for their first tag. From the second Monday in July, all non-residents can apply.
- The second round of second license purchases begins on the fourth Monday of July for residents and non-residents.
- The third round of antlerless license purchases begins on the second Monday of August for residents and non-residents.
- The fourth round for the remaining antlerless licenses begins on the fourth Monday of August. In the fourth round, hunters may apply for more than one license until they have five active antler stags licenses until the license allotment is exhausted. Last year, the agency approved 948,000 antler deer licenses for the state.
The change — allowing more units than county treasurers to sell antlerless licenses — came on Nov. 3 when Gov. Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 431 into law.
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Hunting season in Pennsylvania
The regular rifle hunting season is scheduled to be similar to last year, beginning the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The two-week season, if approved, would begin November 25 and span Sunday November 26. The last day of rifle season is December 9th.
The agency had received input from some hunters requesting that the first day of rifle season be reset to the Monday after Thanksgiving, as it had been for decades until 2018. Game Commission staff provided survey results and data showing that the Saturday opener has helped license sales, including for female and younger hunters. The survey also found that most hunters approve of the new season allowing hunters to be in the forest on Saturday and Sunday this bank holiday weekend.
For black bear hunters, the Board voted to remove Wildlife Management Units 1B in Northwest Pennsylvania and 2C, 4A, 4B and 4D in Southwest and Southern Pennsylvania from the extended firearms season that overlaps with the rifled game season. Staffers cited a decrease in complaints about nuisance bears in those areas.
Nationwide, 3,173 bears were tagged by hunters in 2022, which is below the 10-year average of about 3,400 bears. The population is estimated at more than 15,000 bears across the Commonwealth.
Archery moose hunters would have more time to plan their hunts when final approval is given, unlike in years past. The board approved the September 16-30 archery season, a week later in the month than previous years. Licenses will be obtained through a lottery process and this year’s event will be held earlier than in previous years. Tags will be drawn at Elk Expo July 29-30 at the Keystone Elk Country Alliance Visitor Center in Benezette. The 2022 event took place from August 20th to 21st.
Other elk hunts are scheduled to take place in a similar time frame to previous years. The general season when rifles are allowed is from October 30th to November. 4, and the post-season is scheduled for December 30th to January 6th.
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New options for hunters in CWD areas
If you’ve hunted in an area where deer with Chronic Wasting Disease have been spotted, you’ve had limited opportunities to process the meat. Under current regulations, hunters are not allowed to remove high-risk parts – including the head and spine – from a disease management area or an established area. When shooting deer in these areas, a hunter must either take the deer to an approved processor or taxidermist affiliated with that DMA or EA, or remove the high-risk parts before discarding the meat, antlers and other low-risk parts Risk transported to another location. Out-of-state hunters are prohibited from bringing high-risk passionate parts back to Pennsylvania.
The Board tentatively approved the creation of a nationwide list of collaborating processors and preparators. Any hunter who takes a deer out of state or within a DMA or EA can take it directly to a cooperating processor or taxidermist anywhere in the state.
This change would give hunters better access to collaborating deer processors and taxidermists who are approved based on their adherence to the proper disposal of high-risk parts.
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Combining two WMUs
Antlerless deer hunters in north-central Pennsylvania may have a bigger limit to hunt deer this fall.
The Board provisionally approved that the Wildlife Management Unit 2G should take over the WMU 2H, which was formed 10 years ago.
The measure would disband WMU 2H north of Interstate 80, south of US Route 6, east of US Route 219 and west of State Routes 155, 255, 555 and 120 – and move its territory to WMU 2G, which is east of WMU 2H and shares a border with him.
The 2013 decision to create WMU 2H was intended to take into account the habitat differences between this area and the larger WMU 2G. More recently, however, Game Commission officials determined that WMU 2H is too small to effectively collect adequate wildlife and hunter data for big game species. In addition, the Agency believes that WMU 2H remains similar to WMU 2G in wild harvesting and forest management.
Since antlerless licenses are specific to a WMU, this change would allow hunters to have a larger land area for hunting deer.
All changes made at Saturday’s meeting will be considered for final approval at the April 15 Board meeting.
Brian Whipkey is the outdoor columnist for USA TODAY Network’s websites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at[email protected] and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email using your login name on the home page of this site. Follow him on Facebook@whipkeyoutdoors.