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Pennsylvania Game Commission gives tentative approval for concurrent two-week deer season

LEROY BUTLER
The (Pottsville) Republican & Herald (TNS)
Pa. Game Commission logo

Pennsylvania deer hunters will be able to shoot both buck and doe for two weeks under proposals made during Saturday's first quarterly meeting of the Pennsylvania Game Commission board of game commissioners.

A two-week concurrent statewide firearms deer season beginning the weekend of Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 27-28, is pending approval of the season and bag limits for the 2021-22 hunting seasons at the PGC's Saturday, April 17, meeting.

A statewide concurrent antlered and antlerless deer firearms season is recommended to simplify regulations and provide increased opportunity, especially for younger hunters. This concurrent season has been amended to reflect current available scientific data, population and harvest records, field surveys and professional staff observations.

Input on this and other proposed regulations were reached after recommendations received from staff, organized sporting groups, members of the agricultural community and others interested in the management of the wildlife resources in Pennsylvania.

Because of the proposed two-week concurrent statewide firearms deer season, available antlerless tags are expected to be reduced from 50,000 to 40,000 to achieve the target number of 10,000 antlerless deer taken — a ratio of 4-to-1 as opposed to 5-to-1. With the reduction of available tags, agency staff recommends hunters apply for their desired wildlife management unit in the first round of applications, which should assure requests being filled.

Also proposed is the removal of the limitation on the number of antlerless deer licenses for which hunters can apply, provided a hunter holds no more than four antlerless licenses at a time and licenses still are available for sale within the wildlife management unit. When a hunter takes a deer with an antlerless tag they can apply for another, if available.

Other proposals: Also proposed at Saturday's Pennsylvania Game Commission meeting:

►Sunday hunting dates are similar to those used in 2020-21, however, Sundays during the archery deer and firearms bear seasons would also be open for other species — except migratory game birds and wild turkey — with seasons encompassing those dates. These expansions of Sunday opportunity are the only changes proposed for small game and furbearer seasons.

This will allow for squirrels, grouse, rabbits and pheasants to be hunted Sunday, Nov. 14, during the statewide archery deer season and Sunday, Nov. 21, during the statewide general bear season. Conservation groups and sportsman's organizations were dismayed when small game was omitted from these two Sundays for the 2020-21 seasons.

►With wild turkey population trends declining in many WMUs, closure of the fall season in WMU 5A and reductions in season length for 14 other WMUs are recommended in accordance with Wild Turkey Management Plan guidelines to increase hen survival.

In WMU 4C, the season will be two weeks and in WMU 4E the season will be one week, which represents a reduction of one week in both, plus the three-day Thanksgiving season.

►To help the statewide wild turkey flock rebound, it was proposed to eliminate the use of center-fire and rimfire rifles in the fall turkey season, when hens may be legally taken. This proposal is in response to data showing turkey populations are declining in 15 of Pennsylvania's 23 WMUs, as well as a tool to stabilize fall-turkey harvest without further reducing season length.

Muzzleloader rifles will continue to be legal, as will archery tackle and shotguns. It was stressed by the board that eliminating the use of cartridge rifles was made strictly as a management tool.

►New features in the PALS HuntFishPA system for the 2021-2022 license year will have the capacity to provide hunters and trappers with a digital versions of its license products by email and through the PALS system, however, current licensing regulations will need to be amended to authorize and define their use. Preliminary approval was proposed to create digital licenses and authorize the use of hunting and furtaking eLicenses and will also extend to certain permits also sold through the PALS system, such as mentored permits, bobcat permits and range permits.

An eLicense is generally defined as a digital electronic copy of a hunting or furtaking license or permit provided to customers in the form of a PDF document. An eLicense will be issued to the hunter or trapper at the time of purchase and will be authorized for use in the same manner and as an alternative to traditional physical license documents.

When used, the eLicense will be stored and displayed by the customer on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet, but the customer will also have the option of printing a copy of eLicense products on their own printer using appropriate paper stock.

Carcass harvest tags will continue to be provided to customers in physical form only on the familiar durable yellow stock. No digital versions of these documents will be issued to customers or authorized for use.

Customers that elect to purchase license products online will be provided with digital copies of their license products and thereafter mailed physical carcass harvest tags by first class mail. Customers that elect to purchase license products at an agent location will be issued physical carcass harvest tags at the time of purchase and will also have the opportunity to have digital licenses provided to them electronically when a valid email address is provided.

For a detailed account of Saturday's virtual board of commissioners meeting and complete proposed seasons and bag limits for the 2021-22 hunting trapping seasons, visit www.pgc.pa.gov.