Pennsylvania Game Commission tells state legislators it's open to more Sunday hunts

BRIAN WHIPKEY
Erie Times-News (TNS)
Pennsylvania sportsmen may soon have more opportunities to hunt on Sundays.

Pennsylvania hunters might have more Sunday hunting opportunities in the future.

Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans delivered his annual report Wednesday to the General Assembly, offered testimony before the House Game and Fisheries Committee and spoke about the success of Sunday hunting.

He said the commission supports opening additional Sundays to hunting and welcomes the opportunity to work with the committee to craft legislation giving full authority to the Board of Commissioners to offer additional Sunday hunting opportunities.

“This year’s Sunday hunting opportunities were extremely popular with our hunters, and they did not see any substantial issues occur on these Sundays,” he said through a press release.

Last November, for the first time, hunters were able to hunt three consecutive Sundays for big game. One Sunday was for archery deer, followed by black bear and then rifle deer season.

No details were offered on what additional Sundays would be considered or for what type of game species.

CWD Response Plan: Burhans also reported the Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan is being implemented and they have found 10 fewer positives of the fatal disease than last year.

“Although CWD sampling for this fiscal year will continue through the end of June, through the participation of hunters, agency staff, and various collaborators, we already collected over 11,626 CWD samples. We still anticipate some additional samples through the collection of road-killed deer and clinical suspects. Of the samples collected so far this year, 196 were positive for CWD. In comparison, a total of 15,822 samples were collected last year, of which 206 were positive for CWD,” he said.

He explained the CWD plan sets forth a path forward for minimizing the impact of this disease to deer. Among the strategies identified in the plan are increasing hunting opportunities, providing accurate and timely information on CWD testing results, and conducting educational and outreach campaigns to communicate key messages to stakeholders. Working with Wildlife Futures, the commission launched a CWD visualization tool to allow hunters and the public to view results of the testing efforts based on location.

“We are confident that by working with hunters and our conservation partners on implementing these strategies we can limit the spread of this disease, and in so doing, ensure thriving deer and elk populations for future generations,” he said.

Small game news:For small game hunters, the agency stocked more than 221,231 pheasants this year, which were hunted by 49,613 adults and 13,220 juniors for a total of 62,833 permit holders. Burhans believes the recreational benefits of the pheasant propagation program continue to be highly valued by hunters, as evidenced by this year’s sales of adult pheasant hunting permits being 13% higher than in 2017, when the permit was initiated.

Under our current two-farm business model, the agency is stocking the same number of pheasants as it did under the previous four-farm model, but at a per-bird cost of less than $14 compared to about $21 previously. Moreover, releases now consist of 75% males compared to 50% previously.

Bear season: The board also expanded the length of the bear season, providing for the bear archery season to take place for three full weeks in 2020. This expansion is a benefit to both hunters and farmers, as this archery season allows hunters to better target bears that are impacting agricultural operations. In 2020, hunters harvested 3,608 bears – the sixth-best harvest ever – and it followed last year’s harvest of more than 4,600 bears.

The deer harvest for 2020 will be reported at a later date.