Another deer season is now in the books, although I should note that I am crafting this column with a couple days left to hunt.
Although I managed to bag a doe early last week, I will need to take the season down to the wire in hopes of tagging a buck. To do so, I'll be hoping for an ample dose of luck, because all my efforts and tactics so far haven't yielded even a glimpse of an antler. But luck, or the raw serendipity of being at the right place at the right time, so often makes all the difference in deer hunting.
The end of deer season, however, doesn't mean the end of hunting by any means because a variety of late-season opportunities will be available throughout the coming weeks and months for those intrepid folks who enjoy being out and about in the winter woods. Most popular species of small game will be back in season tomorrow. The late seasons for squirrels and rabbits are the longest, running most of the winter until February 23. The late pheasant season is also a fairly long one, running until Feb. 2, but is open only in Wildlife Management Units 1A, 1B, 2B, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4D, 5C and 5D.
Ruffed grouse will be in season statewide until Jan. 26. Because I prefer to hunt deer by still hunting, I tend to cover a lot of ground during deer season. In doing so, I usually flush a few grouse in those travels and often find a pocket or two of cover that seems to be holding a decent number of birds and like to return to those spots for a late-season bird hunt once grouse are in season again. Unfortunately, my grouse reconnaissance during this deer season revealed no such potential hotspots this year.
The squirrel, rabbit, pheasant and grouse seasons are all closed on Christmas Day. This needless one-day hiatus makes about as much sense as our antiquated ban on Sunday hunting. Most folks have Christmas off and some might choose to spend a few hours of their holiday hunting with friends or family. Really nice of our Game Commission to deny them the chance to do so.
For those who still have an unfilled deer tag, the statewide flintlock muzzleloader and late archery seasons begin on Dec. 26 and run through Jan. 12. Also starting the day after Christmas is the last installment of dove season, which ends on January 5.
Duck season is currently underway everywhere in the state but ending dates vary by zone. Here in the South Zone, duck season wraps up on Jan. 15, while in the North Zone, the season will end on Jan. 5.
Most of our region is within the Resident Population Goose Hunting Zone where the season for Canada geese opens on Dec. 11 and runs through Jan. 15, followed by another four weeks of goose hunting from Feb. 1-28. Waterfowl seasons and bag limits vary considerably around the state. Consult the "Pennsylvania Guide to Migratory Game Bird Hunting Seasons and Bag Limits 2012-13" that is available on the Game Commission website, www.pgc.state.pa.us, for specific information on season dates, hunting zonesand bag limits.
Many varmint hunters enjoy pursuing foxes and coyotes during the winter months when these wily critters can be called into gun range using either mouth-operated or electronic predator calls.
There is no closed season on coyotes, and foxes may be hunted until February 16. Both coyotes and foxes can be hunted any hour of the day or night, including Sundays and even Christmas Day. Go figure. And while your general hunting license is sufficient for hunting coyotes, a furtaker license is necessary to hunt foxes.
Bobcats are another interesting winter hunting opportunity and can be hunted in WMUs 2A, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4C, 4D and 4E from Jan. 15 until Feb. 5. To hunt bobcats, you will need a bobcat permit in addition to a furtaker license. Bobcat permits are no longer allocated in limited quantities via a drawing and may be purchased over the counter from any issuing agent before Dec. 15.