Hunting seasons set, but change may be coming

Opening day of deer season has been the Monday after Thanksgiving for more than 50 years. But how much longer will that be the case? (PA Game Commission)Opening day of deer season has been the Monday after Thanksgiving for more than 50 years. But how much longer will that be the case? (PA Game Commission)

Archers are going to benefit from one change to Pennsylvania’s hunting seasons and bag limits for 2018-19.

But a bigger one may yet be coming.

In giving final approval to the upcoming hunting seasons, Game Commissioners moved the final day of archery season from Saturday, Nov. 10, to Monday, Nov. 12.

That Monday is Veterans Day, said commissioner Brian Hoover of Chester County. It’s a federal holiday and many people have off work, he said.

Extending the season gives them an opportunity to get into the woods, he added.

That same reason – opportunity – is behind another change the board may explore moving forward.

Commissioner Jim Daley if Butler County wants the agency, in setting seasons next year or soon thereafter, to consider opening the statewide firearms deer season on the Saturday after Thanksgiving rather than the following Monday.

“There are a whole lot of reasons a Saturday opener might make sense,” Daley said.

Chief among them, though, is that it might help children and young families get into the woods, he said.

Fewer schools than ever close for the Monday opener, he said. Younger parents, meanwhile – say those 40 and younger – who perhaps don’t have much seniority in their workplace often have a tough time getting off that day, too, he added.

“That set is the one a Saturday opener really benefits,” he said.

Some others want to see the change made, too.

Several members of the state Senate promoted the idea when commission executive director Bryan Burhans delivered the agency’s annual report. Meanwhile, state Rep. Harry Readshaw of Allegheny County is sponsoring a bill that would legislatively change the opener to Saturday.

Daley thinks the commission should move the Monday opener – a tradition since 1963 – on its own.

“Just because it’s tradition doesn’t mean you have to keep it,” Daley said.

A Saturday opener wouldn’t necessarily mean shorter deer seasons or even more deer killed. Burhans said states changing opening days to weekends – even when adding Sundays – typically seen harvests shift from one day to another, rather than see them increase overall.

That would likely be the case with bucks, said Chris Rosenberry, chief if the commission’s deer and elk section.

“On the antlered side, hunters are going to harvest what they harvest. I don’t think an extra day of a Saturday versus a Monday is going to make a big difference,” Rosenberry said.

Doe hunting doesn’t begin until the following Saturday anyway, so a change in the timing of opening day wouldn’t impact that.

But, Rosenberry said, the commission could alter its doe license allocations if need be.

“So certainly, the first year or two would be experimental. We’d see how it plays out and then those adjustments could be made going forward,” Rosenberry said.

A Saturday opener might require some other changes. The Thanksgiving turkey season runs through Saturday, as do many small game seasons.

Those might have to be tweaked, said commission president Tim Layton of Somerset County.

There’s a social aspect to all of this, too, commissioners agreed.

When the board was debating whether to allow semiautomatic rifles for big game last year, hunters were split. Older hunters generally opposed the idea, while younger hunters favored it.

There’s likely a similar age-based difference of opinion here, Daley admitted.

But that’s human nature, Hoover said.

“Everybody likes the status quo. Nobody likes to see change. And when you throw a change in, you throw the anxiety level way up in the air,” Hoover said.

But people adapt quickly. And that would likely be the case in this situation, he suggested.

Still, he said, it’s not going to happen overnight.

“We still have some convincing to do to make this decision going forward,” Hoover said.

It’s convincing that needs to happen, Daley said.

Hunter numbers, in Pennsylvania and across the nation, are falling. And consistently, the number one reason people cite for not hunting or not hunting more is lack of time.

If a Monday opener is an impediment to people hunting, Daley believes it needs to go.

“Times have changed. They really have,” he said. “Sometimes you’ve got to think of keeping up with the times.”

Seasons and bag limits

Planning vacation time for the fall? Here is the schedule of Pennsylvania hunting and trapping seasons for Pennsylvania for 2018-19.

The one thing missing: waterfowl and migratory bird seasons.

But those are expected to be announced within a few weeks, at most.

Hunting seasons and bag limits

SQUIRRELS, Red, Gray, Black and Fox (Combined): Special season for eligible junior hunters, with or without required license, and mentored youth – Sept. 29-Oct. 13 (6 daily, 18 in possession limit after first day).

SQUIRRELS, Red, Gray, Black and Fox (Combined): Oct. 13-Nov. 24; Dec. 10-24 and Dec. 26-Feb. 28 (6 daily, 18 possession).

RUFFED GROUSE: Oct. 13–Nov. 24 and Dec. 10-24 (2 daily, 6 possession).

RABBIT (Cottontail) Special season for eligible junior hunters, with or without required license: Sept. 29-Oct. 13 (4 daily, 12 possession).

RABBIT (Cottontail): Oct. 13-Nov. 24, Dec. 10-24 and Dec. 26-Feb. 28 (4 daily, 12 possession).

PHEASANT: Special season for eligible junior hunters, with or without required license – Oct. 6-13 (2 daily, 6 in possession). Male pheasants only in WMUs 4E and 5A. Male and female pheasants may be taken in all other WMUs. There is no open season for taking pheasants in Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas, except within the Central Susquehanna Wild Pheasant Recovery Area, as authorized by executive order.

PHEASANT: Oct. 20-Nov. 24, Dec. 10-24 and Dec. 26-Feb. 28 (2 daily, 6 in possession). Male pheasants only in WMUs 4E and 5A. Male and female pheasants may be taken in all other WMUs There is no open season for taking pheasants in Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas, except within the Central Susquehanna Wild Pheasant Recovery Area, as authorized by executive order.

BOBWHITE QUAIL: Oct. 13-Nov. 24, Dec. 10-24 and Dec. 26-Feb. 28 (8 daily, 24 possession).

HARES (SNOWSHOE RABBITS) OR VARYING HARES: Dec. 26–Jan. 1, in all WMUs (1 daily, 3 possession).

WOODCHUCKS (GROUNDHOGS): No closed season, except on Sundays and during the regular firearms deer seasons. No limit.

CROWS: July 1-April 14, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only. No limit.

STARLINGS AND ENGLISH SPARROWS: No closed season, except during the antlered and antlerless deer season. No limit.

WILD TURKEY (Male or Female): WMU 1B – Oct. 27-Nov. 3; WMU 2B (Shotgun and bow and arrow) – Oct. 27-Nov. 16 and Nov. 22-24; WMUs 1A, 2A, 4A and 4B, – Oct. 27-Nov. 3 and Nov. 22-24; WMUs 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4C, 4D and 4E– Oct. 27-Nov. 10 and Nov. 22-24; WMU 2C – Oct. 27-Nov. 16 and Nov. 22-24; WMU 5A – Nov. 1-3; WMU 5B – Oct. 30-Nov. 1; WMUs 5C and 5D – CLOSED TO FALL TURKEY HUNTING.

SPRING GOBBLER (Bearded bird only): Special season for eligible junior hunters, with required license, and mentored youth – April 20, 2019. Only 1 spring gobbler may be taken during this hunt.

SPRING GOBBLER (Bearded bird only): April 27-May 31, 2019. Daily limit 1, season limit 2. (Second spring gobbler may be only taken by persons who possess a valid special wild turkey license.) From April 27-May 11, legal hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until noon; from May 13-31, legal hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset.

BLACK BEAR (Statewide) Archery: Oct. 29-Nov. 3. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.

BLACK BEAR (Statewide): Nov. 17-21. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.

BLACK BEAR (WMUs 3A, 3B, 3C and 3D): Nov. 26-Dec. 1. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.

BLACK BEAR (WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D): Nov. 26-Dec. 8. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.

BLACK BEAR (WMUs 1B, 2C, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 5A): Nov. 28-Dec. 1. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.

BLACK BEAR (WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D) archery: Sept. 15-Nov. 24. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.

BLACK BEAR (WMU 5B) archery: Sept. 29-Nov. 10. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.

BLACK BEAR (WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D) muzzleloader: Oct. 13-20. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.

BLACK BEAR (WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D) special firearms: Oct. 18-20, for junior and senior license holders, disabled hunters with a permit to use a vehicle as a blind and resident active duty military.

ELK (Antlered or Antlerless): Nov. 5-10. Only one elk may be taken during the license year.

ELK, EXTENDED (Antlered and Antlerless): Nov. 12-17. Only one elk may be taken during the license year. Eligible elk license recipients who haven’t harvested an elk by Nov. 10, in designated areas.

DEER, ARCHERY (Antlered and Antlerless) WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D: Sept. 15- Nov. 24 and Dec. 26-Jan. 26, 2019. One antlerless deer with each required antlerless license. One antlered deer per hunting license year.

DEER, ARCHERY (Antlered and Antlerless) Statewide: Sept. 29-Nov. 12 and Dec. 26-Jan. 12. One antlered deer per hunting license year. One antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

DEER (Antlered and Antlerless) WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D: Nov. 26-Dec. 8. One antlered deer per hunting license year. An antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

DEER (Antlered Only) WMUs 1A, 1B, 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, 5A and 5B: Nov. 26-30. One antlered deer per hunting license year. (Holders of valid DMAP antlerless deer permits may harvest antlerless deer on DMAP properties during this period.)

DEER (Antlered and Antlerless) WMUs 1A, 1B, 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, 5A and 5B: Dec. 1-8. One antlered deer per hunting license year. An antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

DEER, ANTLERLESS SPECIAL FIREARMS (Statewide): Oct. 18-20. Junior and Senior License Holders, Mentored Youth Permit Holders, Disabled Person Permit (to use a vehicle) Holders, and Pennsylvania residents serving on active duty in U.S. Armed Services or in the U.S. Coast Guard only, with required antlerless license. Also included are persons who have reached or will reach their 65th birthday in the year of the application for a license and hold a valid adult license, or qualify for license and fee exemptions under section 2706. One antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

DEER, ANTLERLESS MUZZLELOADER (Statewide): Oct. 13-20. An antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

DEER, ANTLERED OR ANTLERLESS FLINTLOCK (Statewide): Dec. 26-Jan. 12. One antlered deer per hunting license year, or one antlerless deer and an additional antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

DEER, ANTLERED OR ANTLERLESS FLINTLOCK (WMUs 2B, 5C, 5D): Dec. 26-Jan. 26. One antlered deer per hunting license year, or one antlerless deer and an additional antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

DEER, ANTLERLESS EXTENDED REGULAR FIREARMS: (Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties): Dec. 26-Jan. 26. An antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

DEER, ANTLERLESS (Military Bases): Hunting permitted on days established by the U.S. Department of the Army at Letterkenny Army Depot, Franklin County; New Cumberland Army Depot, York County; and Fort Detrick, Raven Rock Site, Adams County. An antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

Furbearer hunting seasons

COYOTES: No closed season. Unlimited. Outside of any big game season (deer, bear, elk and turkey), coyotes may be taken with a hunting license or a furtaker license, and without wearing orange. During any big game season, coyotes may be taken while lawfully hunting big game or with a furtaker license.

RACCOONS and FOXES: Oct. 20-Feb. 16, unlimited.

OPOSSUM, STRIPED SKUNKS and WEASELS: No closed season, except Sundays. No limits.

BOBCAT (WMUs 2A, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4C, 4D and 4E): Jan. 12-Feb. 6. One bobcat per license year. Licensed furtakers may obtain one permit each.

PORCUPINES: Sept. 1-March 30, 2019. (3 daily, season limit of 10).

Trapping seasons

MINKS and MUSKRATS: Nov. 17-Jan. 6. Unlimited.

COYOTES, FOXES, OPOSSUMS, RACCOONS, STRIPED SKUNKS and WEASELS: Oct. 21–Feb. 17. No limit.

COYOTES and FOXES (Statewide) Cable Restraints: Dec. 26-Feb. 17. No limit. Participants must pass cable restraint certification course.

BEAVERS (Statewide): Dec. 26-March 31 (Limits vary depending on WMU).

BOBCATS (WMUs 2A, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4C, 4D and 4E): Dec. 15-Jan. 6.
One bobcat per license year. Licensed furtakers may obtain one permit each.

FISHERS (WMUs 1B, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4B, 4C, 4D and 4E): Dec. 15-26. One fisher per license year. Licensed furtakers may obtain one permit each.

RIVER OTTERS (WMUs 3C and 3D): Feb. 16-23, 2019. One river otter per license year. Licensed furtakers may obtain one permit each.

Falconry seasons

SQUIRRELS (combined) Sept. 1-March 30, 2019 (6 daily, 18 possession)

BOBWHITE QUAIL Sept. 1-March 30, 2019 (8 daily, 24 possession)

RUFFED GROUSE Sept. 1-March 30, 2019 (2 daily, 6 possession)

COTTONTAIL RABBITS Sept. 1-March 30, 2019 (4 daily, 12 possession)

SNOWSHOE OR VARYING HARES Sept. 1-March 30, 2019 (1 daily, 3 possession)

RINGNECK PHEASANTS (Male or Female combined): Sept. 1-March 30, 2019 (6 daily, 18 possession).

 

Bob Frye is the Everybody Adventures editor. Reach him at (412) 216-0193 or bfrye@535mediallc.com. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodyadventures.com.