From the Pennsylvania Game Commission comes this notice. It’s official: expanded Sunday hunting is coming to Pennsylvania in 2020.
Gov. Tom Wolf today signed into law Senate Bill 147, which permits additional hunting on three Sundays per calendar year – one within the archery deer season, one within the firearms deer season and one selected by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
The law will take effect Feb. 25, 2020, and the first new Sunday hunting opportunities will be identified by the Game Commission thereafter.
In Pennsylvania, Sunday hunting generally is limited to the hunting of foxes, coyotes, crows and feral hogs during open seasons.
Introduced by state Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, Senate Bill 147 passed the state House of Representatives by a 144-54 vote Oct. 29, then passed the state Senate by a 38-11 vote Nov. 18.
Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said today’s signing of Senate Bill 147 by Gov. Wolf is a win for Pennsylvania’s hunters.
“People today tend to lead busy lives, and hunters are no exception,” Burhans said. “No matter how badly a hunter might want to get out and enjoy the outdoors during hunting season, other responsibilities might take priority and make it difficult.
“Providing opportunity to experience hunting on previously closed Sundays has game-changing potential for hunters with tight schedules and, in many cases, will make a difference by enabling those hunters to hunt alongside their children, setting them on a path they’ll follow the rest of their lives,” Burhans said. “To Sen. Dan Laughlin and to all of those who supported the bill and helped to make it a reality, please accept a heartfelt thank you on behalf of the Game Commission and hunters statewide.”
Laughlin, Chair of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, said the new law will create opportunities for tens of thousands of working families across Pennsylvania.
“I believe this has been a long time in coming and is truly a tribute to the thousands of hunters and the many organizations who have supported this effort,” he said. “Weekends are essentially the only time that most working men and women can get out into the woods. The same could be said for many young people, the ones who represent the future of the sport. Lifting the ban will give them increased opportunities to pursue the activity that they love.”
Sen. Jim Brewster, D-McKeesport, who serves on the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee as Minority Chair, sees the new law as an important tool in helping to recruit new hunters and keep them active.
“Sunday hunting will boost interest in the sport and open up new opportunities for hunters who are unable to get into the woods on other days of the week,” Brewster said. “I have been a longtime supporter of adding days when hunters are able to be in the field.
“This law will create access yet provide reasonable protections for farmers and landowners,” he said. “Sunday hunting will allow us to usher in new generations of sportsmen and women to enjoy our woodlands.”
Prior to passing the House of Representatives, Senate Bill 147 was amended to require all hunters on private land on the selected Sundays to carry written permission from the landowner. This requirement does not apply on Sundays when only foxes, coyotes, crows and feral hogs may be hunted.
The bill also gives Game Commission officers the authority to investigate private-land trespassing complaints and enforce trespassing violations as a primary offense. Previously, trespassing violations were referred to police unless a Game & Wildlife Code violation also was alleged. Once the new law takes effect, hunting-related private-land trespassing violations will be enforced year-round by the Game Commission.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania will allow landowners to legally notify hunters and others that they’re trespassing by painting purple stripes on trees or posts.
The bill signed Wednesday by Gov. Tom Wolf is designed to ease a landowners’ task of posting “no trespassing” signs that deteriorate over time. The law takes effect in 60 days.
The purple stripes must be vertical lines at least 8 inches long and 1 inch wide. They must be 3 to 5 feet off the ground, readily visible to a person approaching the property and no more than 100 feet apart.
The law applies everywhere, except in Philadelphia and Allegheny County.
Numerous other states have adopted a purple-paint law, and paint manufacturers have formulated cans of spray paint and brush paint specifically marketed as “no hunting” paint.
It’ here. It’s deer … the firearms deer hunting season that is.
The much awaited rifle deer season gets underway statewide Saturday, Nov. 30, when the majority of sportsmen go afield in hopes of bagging a buck. And this year, the season opens on a Saturday after Thanksgiving instead of the Monday after the holiday as it has traditionally been.
According to Chris Rosenberry, supervisor of the Game Commissions Deer and Elk Section, “The Saturday opener will become the biggest harvest day for bucks with the following Monday playing a lesser role, but how much less remains to be seen.” He believes the second Saturday, since it runs concurrent with the start of the antlerless season, will probably become the second largest harvest day for bucks.
Said Rosenberry, “And now there is a third Saturday, as well, since the season was expanded from 12 days to 13 to accommodate a Saturday opener in which more hunters likely will be able to participate.”
Last year, the firearms season opener saw rainy weather nearly statewide and throughout much of the day, but even then, says the PGC, 30 percent of the antlered deer harvest in the 2018-19 harvest were taken on opening day. It was the best day of the season for buck.
The PGC says larger-racked and older bucks are making up more of the deer harvest with each passing year. Two seasons ago, 163,750 bucks were taken, making it the second-largest buck harvest in Pennsylvania since antler restrictions were started in 2002. It was the 10th best all-time harvest.
In the 2018-19 hunting seasons, the overall deer harvest was 374,690 (226,940 antlerless and 147,750 bucks). But despite the lower buck harvest in 2018-19, there were more 2.5-year-old and older bucks (64 percent) taken. Over the previous four-years, the percentage of 2.5-year-old and older bucks in the annual harvest was 57 percent (2017); 56 percent (2016); 59 percent (2015); 57 percent (2014).
Interestingly, the PGC claims only about a third of deer hunters harvest a whitetail during the slate of deer seasons.
In the past, Penn’s Woods produced some “book bucks” that made Pennsylvania’s Big Game Record book or Boone & Crockett Club rankings.
As for field conditions, the agency says that precipitation through spring and summer has fostered an exceptional supply of fall foods. Grazing grass was available in early November, soft and hard mast crops have been plentiful in many areas, spotty in others.
Rosenberry explained that deer typically key on food sources within good cover. And in the case of cornfields, they might never leave them until the corn comes down, so hunters are urged to confirm deer activity in areas they plan to hunt before they commit to them.
A couple weeks ago as I drove along Mauch Chunk Road a huge buck came running out of the uncut cornfield and across the highway just past the entrance to GEO Chemicals (Trojan Powder Co.). This was around 9:30 a.m. so I wondered why this beauty was hightailing it at that time of morning. As I drove farther south, I noticed a farmer taking down the corn in that field and he spooked the buck that was hiding in the standing corn.
Rosenberry goes on to say deer like to hang-out where food is the easiest to obtain (and this particular buck did just that). And deer usually make a mess wherever they eat so it shouldn’t be hard to sort out whether they’re using an area. The deer biologist suggests hunters do some scouting this week and look for raked-up leaves, droppings and partially eaten mast for confirmation.
BUCH HARVEST PHOTO CONTEST
If you take a buck, or a special buck, or your first buck, the PGC would like to hear from you.
The commission is looking for photo of your trophy from either the archery or firearms season, along with some limited background such as hometown, harvest date and county where buck was taken. Photos will be accepted through Dec. 20 and sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Use “Buck Harvest” in the subject line.
The PGC will narrow the photos in each contest into groups of contenders to be posted on the agency’s Facebook page where users will determine the winning photos by “liking” the images. The winners in the archery and firearms bucks will win trail cameras.
For more information, check the PGCs website.
Last Saturday, the Lil-Le-Hi Cooperative trout nursery stocked some sizable trout in the Little Lehigh between the walk bridge near the Allentown Police Academy and downstream to Robin Hood Bridge. From field reports, 17-inchers and above appeared to be the average size.
Saturday, Nov. 23 kicked off the rifle bear season for its three day run that ends Nov. 27. After that, there’s the extended season from Nov. 30-Dec. 14 in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D. The extended opener also opens again in WMUs 1B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4E and 5A, but that period ends Dec. 7.
Pennsylvania is known nation-wide for having large bears. Bruin’s in the 500-600-pound range are taken every year and in fact two were shot last year that topped 700 pounds, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Last year hunters took 3,153 bears, the 11th best state harvest to date. And this was out of an estimated population of about 20,000.
Typically, the northcentral part of Pennsylvania produces the most bear. Counties of Clinton, Lycoming and Tioga are customarily the top producers. And bear have been shot in 60-67 counties within the state.
But that doesn’t mean there are no local bears. For example, and during the 2018 seasons, Lehigh County had one bear taken during the early season and three during the general season. And they were taken from the Blue Mountain area.
In Northampton County, there were four in early, five in archery, three in the general and five in the extended season. Over in Berks, two in early, one in archery, two in general and three in the extended season.
Interestingly, the bears taken in Lehigh in 2018, were all year-old bear, determined by biologists manning bear harvest check stations who pull a tooth to analyze it for age. The four Lehigh County bear field dressed at 141, 124, 130 and 142 pounds respectively.
In Berks, one bear dressed out at 456 pounds and was determined to be nine years old. A 283-pounder came in at 283 and was nine years old. There was one 179-pounder that was nine years old, and a 152-pounder that was five.
Over in Northampton County, the largest four were a 400 pounder age three, a 316-pounder that lived to 12, a 258 pounder that was four-years old and a 10-year old 209-pounder.
So far this year and during the early season, the largest bear came from Clarion County that tipped the scales at 631 pounds. Slightly below that was a 610-pounder taken in Monroe County, and then a 601-pounder from Northampton County.
There were two archery season bear shot. A 556-pound bruin came from Berks County while the other, a 549-pounder bruin, came from Clearfield County. Interestingly, the PGC says it takes about nine years for a bear to reach 500 pounds.
The top 10 harvest counties to date were: Clinton (138); Lycoming (119); Tioga (91); Luzerne (70); Potter (66); Pike (58); Centre (56); Monroe (51); Wayne (50); and Bedford (49).
If hunters prefer to hunt locally, the best bet is the Blue Mountain ridge that encompasses Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties.
Bear hunting opportunities have expanded this season since there are now 32 hunting days in most parts of the state as compared to the previous 16, and from three Saturdays to seven.
Successful bear hunters are reminded that they are required to take their bear within 24 hours to a PGC check station. Check the Hunting/Trapping Digest for their locations and hours of operation.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, hunters who took part in the first archery-only elk hunt Sept. 14-28, (98 general season elk license holders, 27 for bulls and 71 for antlerless), elk hunters are primed for one of the most exciting hunting adventures in the Keystone State.
The general elk season begins Monday, Nov. 4 and ends Saturday, Nov. 9.
The archery season was held in five of Pennsylvania’s 14 Elk Hunt Zones. The 15 hunters taking part in the archery hunt were selected by lottery after applying to participate. Separate drawings were held for the archery season, general season and late-antlerless-only season, with applicants paying $11.90 to be part of each drawing. More than 60,000 individuals put in for the elk license drawings, says the PGC.
All five archery bull elk hunters were successful during the archery season, and all took trophy animals. Five of the archery antlerless elk license holders harvested animals.
“The bulls were extremely active and vocal during the September archery season,” said Game Commission elk biologist Jeremy Banfield. “They were responding to calls, and in a few cases multiple bulls came charging in to hunters. Hunting during the elk rut certainly provided some exciting hunting,” Banfield added.
Hunters holding licenses for the general season should have been scouting and learning the area if hunting without the services of an outfitter. Outfitters operating in the area are regulated by the Game Commission and have intimate knowledge of the thousands of acres of private and public lands, and for hunters who don’t have the time to scout might benefit from a guide service.
Hunters who do not harvest an elk during the general season may participate in the extended season, in which they are permitted to take either an antlered or antlerless elk outside of the state’s Elk Management Area.
“Trophy bulls were harvested during the archery elk season, there’s much to be excited about for those lucky hunters holding bull and antlerless licenses for the upcoming general season,” said Bryan Burhans, Game Commission Executive Director.
Hunters participating in elk firearms seasons must wear, at all times, 250 square inches of daylight fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined, visible 360 degrees.
Successful hunters must attach the tag to the ear of an elk immediately after harvest and before the carcass is moved. In addition, within 24 hours, each hunter who harvests an elk must take it, along with his or her hunting license and elk license, to the Game Commission check station, where samples are collected to test for chronic wasting disease, brucellosis and tuberculosis. The elk check station is open to public and located at the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette, hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day of the season.
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.