HARRISBURG — Although some hunting seasons are underway, the cooling temperatures and changing leaves signify the best is yet to come.
According to a press release, Pennsylvania’s statewide archery deer season begins Saturday, Oct. 5, and its return is prompting the Pennsylvania Game Commission to issue some helpful reminders about new opportunities.
Among them are additional early bear seasons and a longer firearms deer season that includes a Saturday opener. But many seasons will begin sooner.
In the statewide archery deer season, properly licensed bowhunters statewide can hunt for antlered or antlerless deer through Nov. 16. This later November closing date, which is due to the way the calendar falls, promises to offer some prime hunting days during the deer rut. A late archery deer season then runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 20.
Properly licensed bowhunters in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5C and 5D also may take antlered and antlerless deer during an extended late archery season, which runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 25.
The season for squirrels and rabbits for junior license holders only also kicks off on Oct. 5 and runs through Oct. 19, and junior license holders can pursue ring-necked pheasants from Oct. 12 to 19.
The regular season for squirrels, rabbits, quail, woodcock and ruffed grouse opens Oct. 19, the pheasant season opens the following Saturday, Oct. 26, and the seasons for all six small game species closes on Friday Nov. 29 due to the Saturday firearms deer season opener. The season reopens Dec. 16 through Dec. 24. Then for squirrels, rabbits, quail and pheasants, a winter season runs from Dec. 26 to Feb. 29. There again is no late winter grouse season.
Oct. 12 is also the opening of duck season in the North Zone, and the season opens Oct. 19 in the South Zone.
Pennsylvania in 2019 is doubling its number of statewide bear-hunting days, creating the state’s lengthiest bear-hunting opportunity since the 1930s.
The new statewide bear muzzleloader season that begins Oct. 19 and ends Oct. 26 leads the way for an early firearms bear season from Oct. 24 to 26 for junior and senior hunters, hunters who are on active military duty, and certain disabled persons. A two-week archery season from Oct. 28 to Nov. 9 follows.
The four-day general bear season from Nov. 23 to 27 is followed in some areas by extended seasons that in eight Wildlife Management Units have increased from four to seven days.
“It’s the largest suite of bear-season changes ever approved in a single year,” noted Mark Ternent, Game Commission bear biologist. “In most of the state, we’re going from 14 or 16 days of bear hunting to 32, from three Saturdays to seven, and we will start hunting bears almost two weeks earlier.”
The one week antlerless-only muzzleloader deer season runs statewide from Oct.19 to 26 and overlaps with a special firearms season Oct. 24 to 26 for antlerless deer for junior and senior hunters, mentored youth, hunters who are on active military duty, and certain disabled persons.
For the first time in more than 50 years, Pennsylvania’s regular firearms deer season will open on a day other than the Monday after Thanksgiving — Saturday Nov. 30. The season then will run through Dec. 14. A concurrent antlered and antlerless season continues in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, while in all other WMUs, it’s antlered-only from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6, and then antlered and antlerless from Dec. 7 to 14.
The antlered and antlerless flintlock season runs statewide Dec. 26 to Jan. 20; Dec. 26 to Jan. 25 in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D.
An extended firearms antlerless only season in the Special Regulation counties of Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia opens Dec. 26 and closes Jan. 25.
Pennsylvania’s wild turkey season begins Nov. 2 in most parts of the state, but hunters are reminded that season lengths vary by WMU, and fall-turkey hunting is closed in some areas.
The seasons are as follows: WMU 1B — Nov. 2 to 9; WMU 2B (shotgun and archery gear only) — Nov. 2 to 22 and Nov. 28 to 29; WMUs 1A, 2A (shotgun and archery gear only in Allegheny County), 4A and 4B — Nov. 2 to 9 and Nov. 28 to 29; WMUs 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4C, 4D and 4E — Nov. 2 to 16 and Nov. 28 to 29; WMU 2C — Nov. 2 to 22 and Nov. 28 to 29; WMU 5A — Nov. 7 to 9; WMU 5B — Nov. 5 to 7; WMUs 5C and 5D –— Closed to fall turkey hunting.
BIG GAME CARE
While hunting in October often offers pleasant days afield, the warm weather also presents challenges for successful deer and bear hunters in assuring harvests result in high-quality meat for table fare.
Especially in warm weather, harvested game should be field dressed quickly, then taken from the field and cooled down as soon as possible. While hanging a big-game carcass in a shady area might be fine in cooler temperatures, if the air temperature is above 50 degrees, hunters should refrigerate the carcass as soon as possible.
Information on warm-weather venison care, as well as instructions on deer processing and other tips, are available on the white-tailed deer page on the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.pa.gov.
Fluorescent orange regulations were simplified this year, but 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 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. 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.
Hunters must report deer and turkey harvests, and they are encouraged to do so soon after their successful hunts, so they don’t forget.
There are three ways to report. Harvests can be reported online at the Game Commission’s website by clicking on the “Report a Harvest” button on the home page. Reports also can be phoned in to
(855) 724-8681, or mailed in using the harvest report cards that are contained in the Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest.
Hunters who call should have their hunting license numbers handy, as well as additional information that’s required to be reported.
Hunters harvesting bears during the statewide archery, muzzleloader or special firearms bear seasons, or during an early seasons in WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D, should contact the appropriate game commission region office for instructions to have animals checked.
HUNTING IN A CWD AREA
All who hunt and harvest deer within the state’s Disease Management Areas (DMAs) must comply with special rules aimed at slowing the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania.
The prion that causes CWD is concentrated in high-risk deer parts, including the head and backbone, and these parts may not be transported outside the DMA.
It is legal to remove meat, without the backbone, from a DMA. The skull plate with attached antlers, also may be removed if no visible brain or spinal cord material is present.
Harvested deer can be taken to a cooperating taxidermist or deer processor associated with a DMA in which they’re taken, and the processed meat and/or finished taxidermy mounts may be removed from the DMA when ready.
Successful hunters who intend to do their own processing and who need to transport deer meat or other low-risk parts outside a DMA may stop by one of the many disposal sites established within the DMAs.
Several sites where hunters within DMAs can dispose of high-risk parts are established in public areas within DMAs.
Collection bins where hunters can drop off the heads of the deer they harvest to have their deer CWD-tested for free also will be set up at sites within the DMAs. The backbone and other deer parts may be deposited at high-risk parts dumpsters set up in some of the same locations.
An interactive map showing the location of all parts-collection sites is available on the CWD information page at www.pgc.pa.gov. Lists of cooperating processors and taxidermists, and DMA boundaries, also are available on that page.
CWD always is fatal to the deer and elk it infects. In Pennsylvania, it’s a growing threat to the state’s deer and elk, and its hunting tradition.
As part of the fight against CWD, successful hunters who harvest deer or other cervids anywhere in Maryland, Ohio, New York, West Virginia, or any of the states and Canadian provinces where CWD is known to exist, are prohibited from bringing the high-risk parts of harvested animals into Pennsylvania.
For a more detailed look at the regulations pertaining to these and other seasons, as well as bag limits, visit the game commission’s website.