If the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners approves it at their April 9 meeting, deer hunters in Pennsylvania may see a major change in the start of the rifle deer season.
The major change is moving the traditional Monday after Thanksgiving Day start of the rifle deer season to Saturday after turkey day. This proposal will surely bring about conversation among sportsmen.
For some, starting on a Saturday is nice for hunters who can’t take off from work on a Monday. For youth hunters, it means missing a day of school in districts who no longer have off that day. For others, it may mess up their hunting camp departure plans. Moving the start of the season creates a 13-day season that includes three Saturdays says the PGC.
Other proposals include: shortening to two days the late November turkey seasons to accommodate a Saturday firearms deer opener; expanding the mid-October muzzleloader and special firearms deer seasons to include bears statewide; increasing to two weeks the length of the statewide archery bear season and shifting it to the two weeks following the muzzleloader and special firearms bear seasons; expanding four-day extended bear seasons to six days in most wildlife management units (WMUs) where they are held; establishing a September archery season and a January antlerless season for elk hunters.
But that’s not all.
Another proposal would eliminate the requirement to wear fluorescent orange at any time while archery hunting for deer or bear. This would eliminate all overlap periods when archery hunters are required to wear varying amounts of fluorescent orange while moving or posting orange material while in a fixed position.
The proposal also would eliminate the requirement for fall turkey hunters to wear fluorescent orange material.
After it was voted down last year, the PGC Board will again entertain a proposal to allow semi-automatic rifles for big game in the 2019-20 license year.
In its press release, the PGC Board says that in the stretch run of its first hunting season in which semi-auto shotguns were permitted for big game hunting, and semi-auto rifles were permitted for small game and furbearers, semi-auto rifles may also be considered but only after accepting public comment on the matter before their April meeting. If voted upon and given preliminary approval, the measure could be considered for final adoption in July and put into place for the 2019-20 license year.
This proposal doesn’t necessarily mean just modern sporting rifles (mistakenly referred to as assault rifles), as most major firearms makers also offer semi-autos in the form traditional centerfire rifles.
As for semi-auto rifle magazine capacity, and according to Travis Lau, PGC media relations manger, the PGC has not yet written a proposal on their maximum capacity, but points out that two years ago a 10-round limit was proposed.
The PGC Board also gave preliminary approval to fall turkey seasons and spring gobbler dates for 2020.
With final approval, the fall season in WMUs 1A, 2A, 4A and 4B would be one week (Nov. 2-9), plus a two-day Thanksgiving season (Nov. 28-29). In WMU 1B, the season would remain one week ((No. 2-9) with no Thanksgiving season.
In WMU 2B (shotgun and bow only), the season would run Nov. 2-22 and Nov. 28-29. In WMU 2C, the season would be Nov. 2-22 and Nov. 28-29.
Elsewhere in WMUs 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H,3A, 3C, 4C, 4D and 4E, the season would run Nov. 2-16 and Nov. 28-29.
In WMU 5A, the season runs Nov. 7-9; WMU 5B, Nov. 5-7; and in local WMU 5C and 5D, the season remains closed for the fall seasons as it has in the past.
The Board of Game Commissioners adopted a slate of deer seasons for 2019-20, proposing a split, six-day antlered deer season (Nov. 30-Dec. 6) and seven-day concurrent season (Dec. 7-14) in 20 Wildlife Management Units. The list includes WMUs 1A, 1B, 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, 5A and 5B. The package also retains the full-season (Nov. 30-Dec. 14) concurrent, antlered and antlerless deer season in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D.
Hunters with Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) antlerless deer permits may use the permits on the lands for which they were issued during any established deer season, and would continue to be allowed to harvest antlerless deer from Nov. 30-Dec. 6 in 1A, 1B, 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, 5A and 5B. Fees for DMAP permits are $10.90 for residents and $35.90 for nonresidents.
DMAP permits also may be transferred to Mentored Hunting Program participants.
The board retained the antler restrictions that have been in place for adult and senior license holders since the 2011-12 seasons. It remains the “three-up” on one side, not counting a brow tine, provision for the western Wildlife Management Units of 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and 2D, and the three points on one side in all other WMUs. Those exempt from these antler restrictions are mentored youth hunters, junior license holders, disabled hunters with a permit to use a vehicle as a blind and resident active-duty military on leave.
Once again this year, the commissioners gave tentative approval to concurrent hunting of antlered and antlerless deer in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D during most seasons, with the first segment of the archery season to run from Sept. 21 to Nov. 29 in those WMUs.
All preliminarily approved seasons and bag limits will be brought back to the April meeting for a final vote.
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.