Broad changes could be in store for Pennsylvania hunters this fall if the Board of Game Commissioners gives final approval in April to the seasons and bag limits they tentatively approved on Tuesday.
Among the biggest changes is a proposal to increase the number of Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) in which doe hunting won’t start until the first Saturday of the two-week firearms deer season. Units 2D, 2G, 3C and 4B were antlered-only for the first five days of the 2009 season as part of a study being conducted by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, with concurrent buck and doe seasons held thereafter. Those units will be governed by the same rules in 2010, as will four new units—2C, 2E, 4D and 4E. The five-day antlered season would begin in these eight units Nov. 29 and end Dec. 3, and the seven-day concurrent season would run Dec. 4-11.
The proposed package retains the two-week (12-day) concurrent, antlered and antlerless season in the state’s remaining 14 WMUs.
Two other proposed changes include eliminating the two-week antlerless deer seasons held following the close of the regular firearms season leading up to Christmas in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D. However, the board voted to extend the concurrent antlered/antlerless deer seasons for archery hunters in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D from Jan. 17-29.
Perhaps even bigger changes are in store for Pennsylvania bear hunters. The start of the state’s three-day firearms bear season could move to Saturday, Nov. 20 and conclude on Tuesday, Nov. 23 in 2010. Pennsylvania’s bear season has historically begun on the Monday before Thanksgiving.
In response to opening bear season on a Saturday, the board eliminated the last Saturday of the fall turkey season in WMUs 2B, 2F, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4C and 4E, meaning the season would end on Friday, Nov. 19 in 2010. The motion, made by Game Commissioner Ronald Weaner, was designed to ensure that there would not be an overharvest of turkeys in these units.
Additional changes to bear hunting include the creation of a statewide five-day archery bear hunt Nov. 15-19, which would replace the mid-November two-day archery bear hunt that has been in place since 2006. To accommodate the Saturday firearms opener and the extended archery seasons, the board also eliminated all extended bear seasons that previously were held during the first week of the firearms deer season.
In other news:
• Based on a motion by Game Commissioner Thomas Boop, the board directed Game Commission staff to prepare for its April meeting to suspend the issuance of Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) antlerless deer permits for public lands, unless those managing a public property have an approved management plan in place. Boop noted that this action does not impact private landowners’ ability to enroll in DMAP, which enables landowners to address deer management objectives on their properties.
• A special rabbit season was tentatively approved for junior hunters. The season is scheduled for Oct. 9-16 for juniors ages 12-16 who are accompanied by an adult.
• Additionally, based on a recommendation from Game Commissioner Robert Schlemmer, the late cottontail rabbit season will be Dec. 27-Feb. 26, which equates to three additional weeks of hunting. The board also gave final approval to the use of crossbows for small game seasons.
• The 2010 elk season will be held Nov. 1-6, with an extended elk hunting period from Nov. 8-13 for those with unfilled elk licenses. The extended season applies only to unfilled antlered or antlerless elk license holders hunting outside of the elk management area following the regular elk season. “From time to time, elk wander outside the boundaries of the area in which the Game Commission is attempting to contain them in,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “Because of elk-human conflicts, we do not want to have elk establish populations in areas outside a certain area. For this reason, we want to allow elk license holders who have not taken an elk during the regular season to be able to participate in an extended season to target elk that have gone outside the elk management area.”
• The closing day of the spring gobbler season could move to May 31. This date provides additional hunting opportunities without impacting the resource because disturbance of hens would be minimal since most hens would be in their later stages of nest incubation.
• A new hen turkey harvest and survival rate study will begin in 2010 to determine the effect of fall turkey season length on turkey harvest rates. This study will impact season length in several WMUs. “The research design calls for a three-week season for 2010 and 2011 in WMUs 2F and 2G, and then it decreases to a two-week season for 2012 and 2013; and a two-week season for 2010 and 2011 in WMUs 2C, 2E, 4A, 4B and 4D, which increases to three-weeks for 2012 and 2013,” said Roe. Roe noted that WMU 4D has shown a pattern of adverse effects from three-week fall seasons and this research study is being conducted to address this issue and determine if changing season length has the desired effect on harvest rates.
• Continued population declines have caused the commission to close the fall turkey season in WMUs 5C and 5D. However, the commission will add a three-day, mid-week fall turkey season for WMU 5A beginning in 2010. The fall season has been closed in that unit for the past seven years to allow for population stabilization.
The public may offer comments on all proposed 2010-11 seasons and bag limits, as well as other board actions, between now and the board’s April 19-20 meeting, at which time the seasons and bag limits will be finalized for 2010-11. Also, the board will take action on setting antlerless deer license allocations for the 22 WMUs at its April meeting. Deer harvest estimates for the 2009-10 seasons will be available in mid-March.