Pennsylvania’s annual firearms deer hunting season gets underway Saturday, Nov. 28 instead of the traditional Monday opener. And as a first, the opener is followed by a Sunday (Nov. 29) deer hunting opportunity. The season then continues from Nov. 30 – Dec. 12.
Aside from the first Sunday firearms hunt, there has been some added changes. For hunters in 10 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs), they will have concurrent antlered/antlerless hunting throughout the 14-day season. But that’s not all.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), the firearms season has a new twist in that a regulatory change now allows hunters to harvest a second deer before tagging the first as has been required. Provided of course hunters have the appropriate harvest tags and no attempt is made to move the deer before it’s tagged.
During the 2019-2020 season, hunters took 389,431 deer, the highest overall deer harvest in 15 years. This was the second highest since the 2004-05 seasons when 409,320 were taken.
The 2019-20 statewide buck harvest of 163,240 saw a 10-percent increase in the number of bucks taken over the 2018-19 season when 147,750 bucks were taken.
“The size and quality of bucks in Penn’s Woods right now, probably hasn’t been duplicated in the Commonwealth in over 150 years,” noted PGC Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “The number of record book bucks taken is incredible. In fact, it’s beginning to look like no rack sitting atop record-book listings in unapproachable.” You won’t believe what’s running around Penn’s Woods,” he concluded.
Surprisingly, the PGC made no mention of former deer biologist Gary Alt’s plan to institute a point restriction in areas of the state. Alt came under heavy criticism after this move. But judging what Burhans has said, it seems Alt’s plan back then has now reaped bigger racks on Pennsy bucks.
Insofar as bucks are concerned, the PGC says hunters continue to experience antlered-buck harvest-success levels comparable to historic highs in the late 1990’s and early 2000s. The agency notes that in recent years, about 22 percent of all hunters have harvested an antlered deer, and they look for this trend to continue.
Likewise, the 2019-20 antlerless deer harvest was 226,191 which included 10,461 taken with CWD Deer Management Assistance Program permits. This was similar to the 2018-19 overall antlerless deer harvest of 226,940. In 2017-18 seasons, the antlerless harvest was 203,409.
Pennsylvania’s buck harvest increased for three consecutive years until the 2018-19 firearms season’s opener when heavy rain kept many hunters home. But last season, there was an uptick in buck harvest numbers. It also caused the percentage of 2.5-year old bucks being taken. During the 2019-20 seasons, 2.5-year old and older bucks comprised 66 percent of the buck harvest, up from 64 percent in the 2018-19 seasons. Over the previous four years, PGC records indicate the percentage of 2.5-year old and older bucks taken was between 56 and 59 percent.
The 10 WMUs where hunters can take both antlerless and antlered deer are 2B, 2C, 2D, 2E, 4A, 4B, 4D, 5A, 5C and 5D. In 1A, 1B, 2A, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4C and 5B, a seven-day antlered deer season will be followed by a seven-day concurrent season.
As for field conditions, the PGC notes that drought and late-spring frosts impacted fall foods in some areas of Pennsylvania. Warmer-than-seasonal temperatures this fall made grazing grass available in many places. Soft and hard mast crops have been remarkably plentiful in many areas, but spotty in others according to PGC field reports.
BEAR HARVEST REPORTS
Those looking to track Pennsylvania’s 2020 bear harvest can find harvest totals, breakdowns of harvests by county and season, and a list of the 10 heaviest bears harvested so far by visiting the Game Commission’s website.
Go to www.pgc.pa.gov, click on the Black Bear Harvest link under “Quick Clicks,” then click on the map under “Bear Check Station Data.” The map is updated continually as hunters check their bears and the records are entered into the database. Hunters already have taken nearly 2,000 bears this season.
The four-day statewide bear season runs Saturday, Nov. 21 through Tuesday, Nov. 24. The season includes a day of Sunday hunting – Sunday, Nov. 22. Except for foxes, coyotes and crows, which long have been hunted on Sundays within open seasons in Pennsylvania, only bears may be hunted on Sunday, Nov. 22, and hunters must possess a bear license in addition to a general license to hunt bears.
Those who harvest bears during the four-day statewide season are required within 24 hours to take their bears to a Game Commission check station. Due to COVID-19 protocols, public access to check stations will be limited this year, and only successful hunters and members of their hunting party will be allowed in the checking area.
Bear harvest results also will not be reported at check stations, but the real-time harvest map makes it easy for anyone to stay up to date.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), the agency said hunters have a chance to break last year’s record bear harvest of 4,653 when the rifle bear season opens Nov. 21 with the first (of three) Sunday hunt on Nov. 22.
The archery season offered the first Sunday hunt on Nov. 15 and after this Sunday, Nov. 29 will be the final Sunday big-game opportunity. For those hunting no private property on these Sundays, the PGC requires hunters carry written permission from the landowner with the owners contact information and phone number. The purpose, says the PGC, is if a game warden needs to check the validity of a permission slip.
As for the rifle bear season that runs until Nov. 24, the PGC sold a record 202,043 bear hunting licenses this year, an 18 percent increase over last year.
Hunters will be pursuing a bear population of approximately 20,000, of which hunters removed 20-25 percent of this number last year says the PGC.
Bears have become common throughout the state and especially the Pocono Mountain region. Some swim over the Delaware River to Pennsylvania from New Jersey. Bears have been spotted at Leaser Lake, the Orefield area even one in Lehigh Parkway in late summer.
According to Tom Keller, PGC Game Mammals Section Supervisor, “Bears are incredibly adaptable as they can fit in almost anywhere that offers them cover and reliable food sources. It’s why bears are found in more places in Pennsylvania than any time in PGC existence.”
Last year, bears were taken in 58 of 67 Pennsylvania counties, and 22 of 23 state’s Wildlife Management Units (WMUs). And the largest bear during the 2019 seasons was an 813-pound male taken with a rifle on opening day in Smithfield Township, Monroe County.
Lycoming County experienced the top harvest of 284 bears followed by Clinton and Tioga, both with 267. Other top counties included Huntingdon, 180; Potter, 174; Luzerne, 163; Bedford, 156; Centre, 146; and Warren, 146.
Interestingly, 561 bears were harvested during the archery season alone with 1,340 taken during the concurrent new muzzleloader and special firearms seasons and the new muzzleloader season had an unexpected harvest of 1,000 bears.
Hunters get an extra opportunity during the Extended bear seasons that run in WMU’s 1B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 5A from Nov. 30-Dec. 5, and in WMU’s 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D from Nov. 30–Dec. 12.
As for the required bear check stations, the PGC has changed two that are not listed in the Hunting/Trapping Digest that comes with every hunting license purchased. The changes are as follows: In Lycoming County the check station is now at PGC’s Northcentral Regional Office at 1566 South Route 44 Highway, Jersey Shore, PA, 17740. The other will be at the Southcentral Region Office at 8677 William Penn Highway, Huntingdon, PA. 16652.
For real-time bear harvest totals check www.pgc.pa.gov. Then select “Black Bear Harvest” under “Quick Clicks” on the homepage to link to the totals and harvest maps.
With our unseasonably warm fall weather, anglers with motor boats were able to enjoy some pre-winter time on the water. But winter is drawing nearer and it’s time to consider winterizing your boats’ motor be it a 225-hp or 5-hp model.
BoatUS, the organization representing over 700,000 recreational boaters, offers these motor winterization tips and procedures:
Take extra care to make sure that your engine is properly protected, especially when storing. You'll need fuel conditioner, grease, gearbox lubricant, and storage fogging oil. This is only general guidance. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions and recommendations and if these are inconsistent with anything here, defer to the manufacturer.
A good fuel conditioner that's approved by the manufacturer may help to stabilize the fuel that you have in your engine's system to ensure that the fuel is free of water and other foreign bodies when you restart the engine in the spring. Also, fuel tends to break down during long periods of storage, transforming itself into a gummy substance that clogs your carburetor and fuel lines. Better to take care of it before the clogging happens than face stripping down your fuel system.
Fogging oil is used to prevent damaging corrosion from forming inside the engine during winter storage. The oil comes in an aerosol with a micro straw that can direct the spray into the carburetor throat and spark plug holes. Follow recommendations for your engine, including the product to use.
For extra protection, remove the spark plugs and spray fogging oil in the holes to assure the cylinders and rings are also well lubricated. Rotate the flywheel a few turns to spread the oil inside and then put the plugs back in.
You should also drain and refill your gearbox with fresh oil and lubricate all the lube points on your engine such as shift and throttle linkages. Leave your oil system connected, first making sure that your oil tank is full. This will reduce or prevent condensation forming in the tank during storage.
Remove and check your propeller for damage. If you're unsure of what to look for, don't hesitate to take it to a prop shop or your dealer. Clean and lubricate the shaft. Take the opportunity to tighten any loose screws, nuts, and bolts, and wax the engine's external surfaces. Check and clean your battery, storing it in a cool, dry place.
A final consideration is the position in which to store your engine. The best way is to either leave the motor on the boat or on an engine stand in an upright position, not tilted. If neither of these are an option, try to make sure that the engine is in an upright, self-draining position. If you can't do this, be sure that the cooling system is drained completely. Also, don't store the motor with the gearbox higher than the powerhead, since any water in the exhaust passages can run into the cylinders and cause serious damage. Look carefully at all the mounting hardware you loosen or remove from an installed engine. Replace if there is any wear or other impairment. Also, protect the motor from insects such as mud daubers that may stop up cooling and other holes.
If you follow these basic recommendations, your engine should give you years of trouble-free service. Take the time before storing your motor and you'll have an easy spring!
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.