In historic 5-3 vote, Pennsylvania Game Commission approves Saturday firearms deer opener

Pennsylvania hunters will see the state's firearms deer season opening on a Saturday in 2019.
  • The Pennsylvania firearms deer season will open on a Saturday in 2019.
  • The change from a Monday opener to a Saturday opener was approved Tuesday.
  • The Pennsylvania Game Commission approved the historic change in a 5-3 vote.

HARRISBURG — Deer hunting season in Pennsylvania will start on a Saturday rather than a Monday beginning next season.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission voted 5-3 Tuesday to move opening day of deer rifle season to the first Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Rifle season for hunting deer in Pennsylvania has kicked off the Monday after Thanksgiving since 1963. The historic change expands the firearms season to 13-days, including three Saturdays rather than two.

The first day of the 2019 rifle deer season will be Nov. 30. 

Supporters hope a Saturday opening will bring back people struggling to find time to hunt and help high school and college hunters who don't get opening day off from school. Opponents said the change would interfere with hunting camp traditions and complicate travel during the Thanksgiving weekend.

Commissioner James Daley, who represents the Game Commission’s District 1, made an amendment to retain the opening day as the Monday after Thanksgiving, Dec. 2. And Commissioners Tim Layton, District 4, and Michael Mitrick, District 6, voted with Daley in support of the Monday opener. The rest of the board voted for the Saturday opener.

Mitrick is from York County. His District 6 includes Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Mifflin, Perry, Snyder and York counties. 

After the 5-3 vote on the opening day of deer season, the final list of 2019-20 seasons and bag limits, including a Saturday opener, was then approved by 7-1 margin, with Daley voting against.

Commissioner Brian Hoover, who represents District 8, said he feels a Saturday opener in which more hunters can participate is good for hunter recruitment, which is a big part of why it was proposed in the first place.

“We need to look to the future concerning our hunters and bringing in more youth,” Hoover said in a Game Commission news release.

According to the news release, the Game Commission will track the response to a Saturday opener through license sales, deer harvest and comments about the change.

While some believe the move will be followed with legalization of Sunday hunting, Game Commission officials have repeatedly denied that rumor.

To accommodate the expanded deer season, the late November turkey hunting season has been reduced by two days.

Pennsylvania's firearms deer season will open on a Saturday in 2019.

Other moves: The commission also approved:

►expanding the mid-October muzzleloader and special firearms deer seasons to include bears;

►an expanded two-week archery bear season;

►expanding the bear season from four to seven days in most wildlife management units;

►expanding the late archery and flintlock deer seasons by more than a week, to end on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday; and

►establishing a September archery season and a January antlerless season for elk hunters.

The board gave preliminary approval to the proposals in January.