The changes to Pennsylvania’s hunting rules keep on coming.
For the 2021-22 season, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is proposing several new measures including expanding the species that can be hunted on select Sundays, allowing unlimited doe tags statewide, issuing electronic licenses and cutting turkey seasons.
The agency’s Board of Game Commissioners is scheduled to meet virtually beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23. Those interested in watching the meeting live can register to do so by visiting the agency’s website, pgc.pa.gov.
At the meeting, the commissioners will debate a series of agenda items pertaining to the 2021-22 hunting season, including setting hunting season dates and bag limits.
This past fall, Pennsylvania hunters were afforded the opportunity to hunt deer and bears on Sunday.
State law only allows the hunting of foxes, crows and coyotes on Sundays, but the state Legislature last year approved a change in that law to also allow more general hunting on three select Sundays.
Hunters were allowed to bowhunt for deer on one Sunday, hunt for bear on another and hunt with firearms for deer on the third.
Seasons for other game animals were open during those periods, and many hunters said they wished they could have been hunting those animals on those select Sundays as well.
The law allows for three Sunday hunts and specified that one had to be in archery deer season and another in firearms deer season. The third Sunday was left to the Game Commission’s discretion.
The law does not specify what species can or can’t be hunted on those Sundays.
For the 2021-22 season, the three special Sunday hunts are scheduled for Nov. 14, 21 and 28.
Bowhunting for deer will be allowed on Nov. 14 and 21; bear hunting will be allowed Nov. 21; and firearms deer hunting will be allowed Nov. 28.
Additionally, the Game Commission is proposing to allow small game and furbearer hunting on Nov. 14 and 21 as well.
Turkey hunting and waterfowl hunting will not be allowed.
UNLIMITED DOE TAGS
The Pennsylvania Game Commission each year issues a set number of antlerless deer licenses per WMU. The individual WMU allocations are based on local deer populations.
In recent years, the agency has not sold all licenses issued, which affects its deer management plans. Simply, a license that isn’t sold is one that can never be used to take a deer.
This past season, there were about 16,000 unsold licenses available in WMUs 2A and 4A. As of this week, WMU 2A had sold out, but WMU 4A still had over 5,000 tags remaining.
Currently, an individual hunter can hold no more than three antlerless licenses for WMUs outside the Special Regulations Areas of WMU 5C, 5D and 2B. Hunters can have an unlimited number of licenses for those three units, and those tags can be held in addition to three tags outside those units.
Under a new proposal, hunters outside the special regulations areas no longer will be limited to three licenses, and hunters inside those three units no longer will be allowed to buy as many tags as they want at one time.
The new proposal calls for hunters to be allowed to buy an unlimited number of tags statewide through a season, but each hunter can be in possession of no more than four tags at one time.
In this system, the agency would hold its usual three rounds of by-mail antlerless license sales in the summer. Hunters would be allowed to apply for one tag per round statewide – including in the special regulations areas – to end up with three tags at the end of those rounds.
Then, beginning the second Monday in September, tags that remain for sale would be available for purchase over the counter at county treasurers offices. Hunters would then be allowed to buy a fourth tag.
(Or, if you hadn’t bought any to this point, you could buy up to four in one shot.)
Moving forward, an individual hunter can buy a fifth tag after he reports to the agency that he has filled one of his four tags, and if there are still tags left for sale. And he can keep buying tags so long as they are available and as long as he proves he filled one of his other tags.
Four unused antlerless tags would be the most a hunter could have in hand at any given time, but there is no limit on how many that hunter can use through the course of a season. The only limitation would be in the number of antlerless licenses allocated to each WMU.
“The Commission also expects to see the collateral benefit of increased harvest reporting rates with this new process due to the harvest reporting requirements applied to the issuance of subsequent antlerless deer licenses,” the agency states in the Jan. 23 meeting agenda.
“Lastly, the Commission also sees the potential for antlerless deer license sales to stretch into regular firearms deer seasons for some WMUs, thus making some antlerless deer licenses available to hunters purchasing their hunting license later in the hunting season.”
All hunters currently are required to carry paper hunting licenses.
Beginning with the 2021-22 season, the agency is proposing to allow hunters to have electronic licenses, or e-licenses.
This is a digital copy of a license that hunters would carry on their phones. They would not need to have the paper license with them.
Paper carcass tags for the various game animals would still be required.
So let’s say you buy a hunting license online. You could just keep a digital copy of it, along with your muzzleloader stamp, archery stamp, bear license, etc., on your phone and the Game Commission would mail to you the appropriate paper carcass tags.
You can still go to a license agent and buy a paper license and receive all your harvest tags at the time of the sale.
TURKEY SEASON CUTS
“With wild turkey population trends declining in many wildlife management units,” the Game Commission states, there is a proposal for cuts to fall turkey seasons in 15 WMUs.
The fall season would be closed altogether in WMU 5A, where the agency has been talking about turkey declines for the last several years.
In WMUs 1A, 4A, 4B, 4D and 4E, where fall turkey hunting had been allowed for two weeks, the season would be reduced to one week.
In WMUs 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D and 4C, which had a two-week hunt followed two weeks later by a three-day hunt at Thanksgiving, the Thanksgiving leg of the season will be eliminated.
And in WMU 2C, which had a three-week hunt followed by the three-day Thanksgiving leg, the season would be reduced by one week.
The three-day fall season for WMU 5B, which covers nearly all of Lancaster County, would remain intact.
There is no change proposed to the spring gobbler season.