Pennsylvania's archery deer season looms, and stats show its popularity is soaring

Hunter Terry Wills of Emigsville takes aim at a target while preparing for a past archery season with a 3-D shoot at York Archers in Lower Windsor Township. The 2021 archery deer season is almost upon us.
  • The 2021 statewide archery season in Pennsylvania starts Oct. 2.
  • In 2020, the Pa. Game Commission sold a record 373,700 archery licenses.
  • That's an increase of nearly 29% when compared to the 289,414 archery licenses sold in 2010.

Pennsylvania’s archery deer season is almost upon us.

It’s expected that hundreds of thousands of hunters will take to Penn’s woods in the coming months.

The 2021-22 statewide archery season runs from Oct. 2 to Nov. 13, continues on Sunday, Nov. 14, then goes Nov. 15 to 19. It comes back in on Dec. 27 and goes through Jan. 17.

According to a news release from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the state held its first statewide archery season in 1951 and this year’s hunt is the 71st in a row since. It gives hunters the chance to be afield during the peak of the whitetail rut.

The state’s first archery season drew a little more than 5,500 participants. In 2020, by comparison, the Game Commission sold a record 373,700 archery licenses, counting those sold to Pennsylvania residents as well as hunters from other states. That was an increase of 9% over 2019, when 341,847 licenses were sold, and of nearly 29% over 2010’s license sales of 289,414.

According to Game Commission data, archers accounted for 32% percent of Pennsylvania’s total deer harvest in 2017, 30% in 2018 and 37% in 2019. They accounted for 37% again last year, or 160,480 deer, which included 80,130 bucks.

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In a couple parts of the state, the season will get started even earlier. Archers pursuing whitetails in Wildlife Management Units 2B and 5C and 5D, around Pittsburgh and Philadelphia respectively, can start hunting two weeks sooner, get an additional Sunday and can go later into 2022. Archery season in those WMUs runs from Sept. 18 to Nov. 13, continues on Sunday, Nov. 14, goes Nov. 15 to 20, continues on a second Sunday, Nov. 21, and goes from Nov. 22 to 26. It comes back in on Dec. 27 and goes through Jan. 29.

Some items of note from the Game Commission: Archery hunters may use long, recurve or compound bows, or crossbows. Bows must have a draw weight of at least 35 pounds; crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds.

Hunters may use illuminated nocks for arrows and bolts, as they aid in tracking or locating the arrow or bolt after being launched. However, transmitter-tracking arrows are illegal.

Tree stands and climbing devices that cause damage to trees are unlawful to use or occupy unless the user has written permission from the landowner. Tree stands – or tree steps – penetrating a tree’s cambium layer cause damage, and it is unlawful to build or occupy tree stands screwed or nailed to trees on state game lands, state forests or state parks.

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Portable hunting tree stands and blinds are allowed on state game lands, but not until two weeks before the opening of the archery deer season. Hunters must remove them no later than two weeks after the close of the flintlock and late archery deer seasons in the WMU being hunted.

In all cases, tree stands on state game lands also must be conspicuously marked with a durable identification tag that identifies the stand owner. Those tags must include the hunter’s first and last name and legal home address, the nine-digit CID number that appears on their hunting license, or their unique Sportsman’s Equipment ID number. Hunters can find their number in their HuntFishPA online profile or on their printed license.

Hunters who plan to be afield on private property on the Sundays open to archers must carry with them written permission from the landowner to be there.

Information for this story was provided by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.