At their recent meeting, the Board of Game Commissions gave final approval to the 2023-24 hunting/trapping seasons, bag limits, certain season modifications, expanded opportunities for mentored hunters and antlerless deer licenses allocations. They are as follows.
*Black bear hunting in WMUs 1B, 2C, 4A and 4D were removed from the extended firearms season because of declining nuisance complaints in these units.
*For elk, the archery season will be a week later than in 2022-23 to provide added time between the license drawing and beginning of the season.
*Small game season received an expansion of opportunity for put-and-take hunting of captive-reared bobwhite quail in most of Pennsylvania, through an earlier season opening date, later season closing and removal of the daily bag limit. Crow season dates and additional Thursdays as hunting days, were approved to shift hunting opportunity from the peak breeding season to the fall and winter months.
*The 2024 youth and regular spring turkey seasons will open five days later than in 2023 due to normal calendar fluctuation and PGCs turkey management plan.
*The Saturday start of the firearms deer hunting season will continue on a Saturday. The move from a traditional Monday opener has, says the PGC, saw a license sale increase by hunters ages 18-34 and female hunters due to this opening change.
*PGCs board approved a measure that makes all mentored hunters and mentored adults, eligible to participate in the October special firearms season for antlerless deer and bears.
*Approved were the allocation of 1,095,000 antlerless deer hunting licenses, which is up from 948,000 allocated in 2022-23. The statewide allocations by Wildlife Management Units are as follows with last year’s allocations appearing in parenthesis. Of special note is that WMU 2H was eliminated and placed within WMU 2G.
*WMU 1A, 46,000 (43,000); WMU 1B, 37,000 (34,000); WMU 2A, 46,000 (39,000); WMU 2B, 53,000 (49,000); WMU 2C, 88,000 (67,000); WMU 2D, 86,000 (74,000); 2E, 52,000 (42,000); 2F, 49,000 (37,000); 2G, 35,000 (31,000); 3A, 21,000 (19,000); 3B, 32,000 (33,000); 3C, 40,000 (37,000); 3D, 41,000 (41,000); 4A, 61,000 (50,000); WMU 4B, 46,000 (34,000); 4C, 32,000 (31,000); 4D, 77,000 (55,000); 4E, 54,000 (42,000); 5A, 40,000 (31,000); WMU 5B, 60,000 (60,000); WMU 5C, 70,000 (70,000); 5D, 29,000 (29,000). Only one WMU (3B) had a reduction in allocation while the others saw increases.
As for the elk seasons, 144 elk licenses (65 antlered, 79 antlerless) were allocated across the three 2023-24 seasons. For the one-week general season that will run Oct. 30-Nov. 4, 30 antlered and 42 antlerless tags have been allocated. For the archery season, that’s only open in select Elk Hunt Zones, it will run Sept. 16-30, with 18 antlered and 8 antlerless tags available. In addition, there are 17 antlered and 29 antlerless licenses available for the Dec 30-Jan. 6 late season.
There will be yelps, cackles and purrs emanating from Pennsylvania’s woodlands Saturday, May 30, when the much anticipated and popular spring turkey hunting season opens in most wildlife management units of the state.
Actually, the season began this past Saturday for junior and youth mentored hunters and continues beginning this weekend.
According to Mary Jo Casalena, PGC turkey biologist, the prospects look good based on the last summer’s turkey reproduction statewide. Casalena reported that along with summer sightings, it revealed 3.1 poults (young turkeys) per hen on average. That was the highest in recent years she offered.
“With all those 2-year old gobblers available, there’s great reason for optimism for the 2023 spring gobble season. There are other gobblers out there as well including wily, mature 3-year old birds and older that are perhaps tougher to fool. And with poult production in 2022 just as good as the year before, jakes or 1-year old gobblers abound,” she explained.
Casalena goes on to say that with 172,000 people, on average hunting spring turkeys every year, some will bag a bird while others won’t. Successful hunters are the ones who do a lot of scouting pre-season. She contends that nosier birds tend to be more callable to the gun.
“If you don’t see or hear many turkeys where you’re scouting, try a different area. Where you heard birds last year isn’t necessarily where you’ll hear or find them this year. And halfway through the season, or toward the end, return to areas you heard turkeys before the season. Chances are some are still there and if you stay all morning or all day, a gobbler could some in quietly,” she offers.
As a reminder, hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise and end at noon for the first two weeks of the season that runs until May 13. From May 13 through May 30, hunting hours are from one half-hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset.
Other reminders are that wearing fluorescent orange is not a requirement but is recommended while moving through the woods. And for hunters using a blind, they must be made with manmade materials of sufficient density to block movement within the blind from an observer outside the blind. Blinds must completely enclose the hunter on all four sides and from above. It’s unlawful to hunt turkeys from blinds made of natural materials such as logs, tree branches and piled rocks. Blinds that represent the fanned tail of a gobbler, do not hide all hunter movement and are unsafe and therefore unlawful to use in Pennsylvania.
If successful in bagging a gobbler, don’t forget to report it via the PCCs website (www.pgc.pa.gov) on the Report a Harvest link, by calling 800-838-4431, or by mailing it in. These reports, said Casalena, are important to managing turkeys as they allow the PGC to estimate harvest and population trends.
And one more thing. Ticks, lots of ticks this season because of a relatively mild winter. Turkey hunters need to spray-up with a good tick repellent. If you’re lucky to bag a bird, guaranteed the bird will probably be loaded with them. With the new tick being publicized, a repellent is a necessity from hat to boots.
The 2022-23 estimated deer harvest numbers are in and they reflect a 12 percent increase over the 2021-22 seasons.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, there was an estimated total of 422,960 deer harvested. This was an increase over the 2021-22 season when 376,810 deer were taken. The estimated count broke down as 164,190 antlered and 258,770 antlerless deer.
The PGC points out that the buck harvest was only two percent higher than the most recent three-year average, and they are seeing more older bucks being available for harvest. Along with that, the agency reports that for five years running, about one of four Pennsylvania hunters tagged a buck, with two of every three bucks harvested being 2.5 years old or older.
Interestingly, of the antlerless deer taken, 67 percent were adult females while 17 percent were button bucks, and 16 percent were doe fawns. Hunters filled roughly one of every four antlerless deer licenses last season.
As a further breakdown of the total harvest, the regular firearms season accounted for the largest part of the 2022-23 tally as hunters took 251,520 deer with 87,190 being bucks and 164,340 being antlerless deer. Bowhunters, with either bows or crossbows, tallied 145,640 deer of which 75,770 were bucks and 69,870 were antlerless deer. The estimated muzzleloader take was 25,790 deer of which 1,230 were bucks and 24,560 were antlerless.
As for local Wildlife Management Units, the totals were as follows with bucks noted as “A” and antlerless as “AL” and with last year’s totals listed in parenthesis: 3D: 5,550A (4,700), 7,400 AL (6,300); 4C: 6,900 A (5,700), 8,200 AL (6,400); 5C: 7,200 A (6,600), 16,700 AL (14,700); 5D: 2,500 A (2,600), 6,700 AL (6,300).
Of all the states WMUs, 2D registered the highest totals of 14,000 A (11,500) and 23,000 AL (19,900) for the firearms season.
For archery and muzzleloader season totals, they are as follows: 3D, archery, 2,260 A, (1980), 2,030 AL (1,500); muzzleloader, 40 A (20), 770 AL (500); 4C: archery, 3,450 A (2,870), 2,170 AL (1,750; 5C: archery, 5,020 A (4,730), 8,040 AL (6,890); 5D: archery, 2,080 A (2,800), 4,760 AL (4,390), muzzleloader, 20 A (120), 140 AL (210).
In addition to inseason trout stockings, volunteers with Lehigh Fish-Game, Pioneer Fish-Game and Trout Creek Fish-Game associations stocked over 60 golden rainbow trout in the Little Lehigh and other area streams. The trout were compliments of Cabala’s in Hamburg.
Shad are also being caught in the Delaware River from Lambertville upriver. Steve Meserve, who does commercial shad netting in the Delaware, has reported catching 87 roe and 121 bucks as of March 27, and has returned 182 shad to give him a total of 390 or 12.58 shad per haul so far this season. And that was done in 31 hauls over 26 days.
We’ll keep you posted on further Delaware River shad updates.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.