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Game Commissioners nix idea of earlier deer season

White-tailed deer buck standing in forest.
Joe Kosack

A Pennsylvania Farm Bureau director had made a request to the Pennsylvania Game Commission to consider opening the firearms deer season on the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving rather than on the following Monday. But the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday were not in favor of making any changes to the deer hunting season at this time.

The farm bureau director cited that there has been a lot of deer damage to farmland across the state and that an extra day or two of firearms hunting would help reduce the deer population, thus reducing the damage they cause to farms.

The idea would also help draw out more younger hunters who are out of school the Friday after Thanksgiving. Most schools in the Lehigh Valley are generally closed the Monday following Thanksgiving, but that's not entirely true statewide.

It was also suggested that if the idea was not fully granted, a possible trial of an expanded season could be done in at least one of the state's 23 wildlife management units.

Some local hunters were lukewarm to the idea of changing the start of firearms deer season, citing that it has been a long tradition in the state to start the deer hunting season the Monday after Thanksgiving and that they are tired of many recent changes which have been made by the game commission.

The Game Commissioners at their meeting did give preliminary approval to a schedule of deer hunting seasons that would retain the split, five-day antlered-only deer season (Dec. 1-5) and seven-day concurrent season (Dec. 6-13) in a dozen wildlife management units: WMUs 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3B, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E. The remaining units – WMUs 1A, 1B, 2B, 3A, 3D, 4A, 4C, 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D - would see a two-week (Dec. 1-13) concurrent, antlered and antlerless deer season.

The board will consider final adoption at its’ April 7-8 meeting. Until then the commission will accept public comment on the plan.

For bear hunters, the commissioners came up with some new wrinkles, giving preliminary approval to enlarging the area of the state covered by extended bear hunting seasons to include WMUs 2C and 4B, each with four days of bear hunting concurrent with part of the deer hunting, beginning the first Wednesday of the 2014 statewide general deer season Dec. 3.

According to commission staff, WMU 2C has had a slightly increasing bear population trend, highway mortalities of bears have been slowly increasing and there's been a noticeable increase in human-bear conflicts there. WMU 4B also has had an increasing trend of human-bear conflicts, and several incidents in recent years involving home entry or injury to pets and people. Highway mortality of bears also has increased there, as has the bear harvest, which has increased by about 20 percent annually since 2003.

Commissioners voted to continue expanded bear seasons in the state's most urban wildlife management units – WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D – and will continue to allow the harvest of black bears with a bear license during all deer seasons September through early December in those WMUs.

The extended bear season dates for 2014 are: Sept. 20-Nov. 15 in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, for archery only; Oct. 4-Nov. 15 in WMU 5B, for archery only; Oct. 18-25 in WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D, for muzzleloaders only; and Oct. 23-25 and Dec. 1-13 in WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D, using any legal sporting arm for juniors and seniors, disabled person permit holders to use a vehicle as a blind and resident active duty in armed services.

The statewide five-day archery bear season will open Nov. 17 and run through Nov. 21.

The four-day statewide bear season is slated to open on Saturday, Nov. 22, and continue on Monday and runs through Wednesday, Nov. 24-26.

Click here for all hunting season dates that are up for approval at the April meeting.

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