Game Commission shakes up deer season and more

Yesterday, of course, marked the opening of trout season, and thousands of local anglers descended on the many trout streams throughout our region.

I’m hopeful that many fellow anglers had some success and enjoyed the day. Once the hoopla and the crowds of opening weekend subside, trout fishing will get back to something approaching normal for most of us. Given that, I had intended to devote my space this week to discussing some early-season trout strategies, but changes to some hunting seasons approved by the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners last week have been a hot topic and something I’m compelled to comment on.

The crown jewel of the recent changes is moving the opening day of the regular deer season from the long-standing Monday after Thanksgiving to the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The thinking behind this change was to make the deer season more user friendly to many working folks and young persons by opening it on a weekend, and hopefully, to promote recruitment and retention of hunters.

Apparently, however, there was some dissent on this measure among the eight commissioners on the board. Before the final vote, Commissioner James Daley made an amendment to retain the traditional Monday opening day. That amendment failed by a 5-3 vote, and the original proposal for a Saturday opener passed 7-1, with Daley as the lone dissenting vote. So all Pennsylvania deer hunters will now need to adjust to a new tradition.

Personally, I was mostly neutral on the change. If they want to open deer season on 1:30 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, I’ll be there and deal with it. What I think is patently ridiculous is starting deer season on Saturday when we can’t hunt on Sunday here in dear old Pennsyltucky. I’m not going to get into the whole Sunday hunting issue today other than to say there are no substantial arguments against it as we near the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century. But Sunday hunting will take an act of our state legislature. So to all our local legislators who felt compelled recently to derail efforts to control the threat of CWD in our area by being swayed by a handful of vocal and misinformed folks, do something meaningful. If you really want to help hunters and the future of hunting and conservation here in Pennsylvania, draft and pass the necessary legislation to allow us to hunt on Sunday in Pennsylvania.

Some of the other highlights coming from the recent Game Commission meeting include expanding the late archery and flintlock deer seasons by more than a week. Apparently, the Game Commission has decided we just might have too many bears in Pennsylvania, so the mid-October muzzleloader and special firearms deer seasons have been expanded to include bears statewide. The four-day extended bear seasons has been expanded to all seven days concurrent with the first week of deer season, Nov. 30 to Dec.7., in wildlife management units (WMUs) 1B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 5A. One season reduction that has gone largely unnoticed but will undoubtedly affect countless hunters is the porcupine season will be cut about 10 weeks statewide for 2019-2020.

The April meeting of the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners is also when the allocations for antlerless deer licenses are set. This year the statewide total will be 903,000, which is up from the 838,000 licenses allocated for 2018-19. Given this large increase in license allocations, most WMUs will see higher numbers of antlerless licenses this season. Here are the antlerless license allocations for our region, with last year’s numbers in parenthesis: WMU 2C — 52,000 (44,000); WMU 2E — 32,000 (27,000); WMU 4A — 41,000 (38,000); WMU 4D — 46,000 (34,000).

The commissioners also approved new regulations to eliminate the requirement to wear fluorescent orange at any time while archery hunting for deer, bear or elk as well as the requirement for fall turkey hunters to wear fluorescent orange. Their justification for this change was the intention to clear up the complexity of existing fluorescent orange requirements. Personally, I hate having to wear orange anytime while hunting for anything. But I also appreciate the reality of the undeniable safety factor that wearing fluorescent orange has brought to the sport as evidenced by the decline in hunting accidents, especially in recent years. I sincerely hope that relaxing the current orange regulations won’t see an increase in hunting accidents in the future.

I’ll certainly elaborate on many of these new issues in the coming weeks, but for now, I hope all the anglers out there enjoy the new trout season. I plan to be on the water as much as possible in the coming weeks.

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