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Hunting season begins in Pennsylvania: Here's what you need to know

The (Easton) Express-Times (TNS)
Pennsylvania hunters are now safer than ever according to a report by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Andy Williams famously sang, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” when speaking bout the holiday season.

But, if you ask deer hunters for their take on the most delightful season each year, it would likely be the days that follow Thanksgiving, when Pennsylvania’s annual firearms deer hunt comes in.

It’s a time when there are more hunters than ever in the woods and dreams of big bucks dance through every sportsman’s head.

This year’s deer season opens Saturday, with hundreds of thousands of sportsmen expected to hit Penn’s Woods.

If you’re heading out, here’s what you need to know:

The dates: This year marks the second year of the new season format, where sportsmen can hunt deer the entire opening weekend, Nov. 27 and Nov. 28, since the 28th is one of three Sunday hunting days during the year.

The season then continues through Dec. 11, with only Sunday, Dec 5 being off limits to hunters.

The old: Pennsylvania is consistently among the leading states nationwide when it comes to deer harvest, and last year was no exception.

Overall, 435,180 deer were taken, the most in 15 years and 12% higher than the 2019-2020 season harvest of 389,431.

Among those were 174,780 antlered deer, the most since antler restrictions were put in place in 2002.

The new: For the first time in years, concurrent hunting of both antlered and antlerless deer will be allowed statewide during the firearms deer season.

For comparison, last season 10 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) did not allow concurrent deer hunting during the firearms season. 

One other new regulation that hunters need to be aware of – if you harvest a deer, you must notch your deer tag in addition to filling out all of the information on the permit.

The hunting forecast: Pennsylvania Game Commission Communications Director Travis Lau notes that with it being the third year for a Saturday opener, and second year for a Saturday-Sunday opening weekend, the potential for higher participation still exists on the first two days of the season.

In addition, the return to concurrent antlered and antlerless hunting statewide could further boost opening-weekend participation.

“In previous years where split seasons were held, hunters who took a buck in archery season couldn’t hunt antlerless deer until the (antlerless deer) season opened. Now there’s an opportunity for them to hunt the opener,” Lau said. “That could put more hunters in the woods, and my take always is and will be, ‘The more the merrier in the firearms deer season.’ More hunters move more deer and create more action. It’s part of why the firearms season is so special – endless possibilities that could unfold at any moment.”