Rifle deer season will start Saturday, marking the first time since 1963 the season has not kicked off the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Supporters hope a Saturday start will bring back those struggling to find time to hunt and help high school and college students who do not get opening day off from school.
Opponents argue the change will interfere with hunting camp traditions and affect Thanksgiving plans.
“The whole purpose of this is to create opportunity,” state Game Commission Warden Dan Murray said. “The agency’s been trying to create a lot of opportunity because we need to recruit new hunters and we need to retain the ones that we already have.”
The change expanded the firearms season to 13 days, including three Saturdays rather than two. The change was one of several approved in April by the state Game Commission.
Other changes made by the Game Commission include simplifying requirements to wear fluorescent orange, though it remains recommended during all seasons. No fluorescent orange is required at any time during fall turkey season or archery deer, bear or elk season.
Sunday hunting looms: Further hunting changes are looming. Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed into law a bill that permits limited Sunday hunting.
The law allows Sunday hunting one day during rifle deer season, one during statewide archery deer season and a third day to be determined by the state Game Commission.
The ban on Sunday hunting is one of the few “blue laws” — enacted to encourage people to go to church — left on Pennsylvania’s books. The change will not affect the upcoming deer season, Murray said.
“This legislation carefully balances the needs of landowners with an expanded opportunity for hunters who work or attend school during weekdays,” Wolf said in a statement.