antlerless deer

Three antlerless deer feed in a snow-covered field.

Leftover antlerless deer licenses go on sale Monday at county treasurers’ offices across the state.

And with the new, statewide six-tag limit per hunter, it will be interesting to see if there’s a rush to buy up remaining tags.

That tag limit is new this year. Previously, hunters were limited to no more than three antlerless licenses across 20 of Pennsylvania’s 23 wildlife management units.

On top of those three licenses, they could have as many tags as they wanted for WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D.

For this year, the Pennsylvania Game Commission eliminated the unlimited-tags quota for WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, and set a statewide limit of six tags per hunter across all WMUs.

That’s how many doe licenses a hunter can hold at one time. But as an individual fills tags, he or she can replace them so long as allocations for more tags remain.

So technically, there is no limit to the number of tags a hunter can hold over the course of a season. They are only limited by the individual WMU allocations.

So far this year, the Game Commission has allowed three rounds of doe-tag sales, and hunters were allowed to buy one tag per round.

That means the most antlerless licenses any Pennsylvania hunter can hold right now is three.

Starting Monday, Sept. 13, hunters can buy as many tags as they want to get to the six-tag quota.

So if a hunter has three tags already, the most he or she can buy starting Monday is three more. If a hunter has no tags, he or she can buy up to six. 

Game Commission officials said they made this change to the antlerless license system in Pennsylvania to avoid having tags left unsold at the end of the season.

Antlerless tag allocations are set by agency biologists each year in hopes of achieving certain harvest goals. Those goals are based on a number of factors, including deer-human conflicts, health of the deer and health of the forest.

Biologists issue “X” number of tags in a given unit in hops of seeing “X” number of antlerless deer removed from the population.

If all the tags in a given unit are not sold, then there’s no way for the harvest goal to be met for that year.

If that scenario happens year after year – WMU 4A has gone several years without selling out – then deer-management issues can grow larger.

In the past, if a hunter had three tags for WMU 4A and filled them all, that hunter could not get any more.

Game Commission officials hope the new system instituted for 2021-22 allows hunters the potential opportunity to buy tags all the way to the end of the hunting season.

And successful hunters would not be bound by a limit.

Last year, WMU 4A was the only unit that did not sell all of its tags. But last year, hunters could hold as many tags for WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D as they wanted, on top of the three tags they were allowed in the rest of the state.

It was not uncommon for a hunter to have as many as 10 tags for WMUs 5C and 5D combined, in addition to three tags elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

WMU 2B finally exhausted its allocation on Dec. 11, 2020. WMUs 5C and 5D were sold out before the end of August last year.

As of late last week, 11 of the state’s 23 WMUs still had tags remaining. The other 12 units had exhausted their allocations.

Among the units with remaining tags is WMU 5B, which covers nearly all of Lancaster County, plus parts of several surrounding counties.

Last Thursday, WMU 5B had 1,232 antlerless licenses remaining from its total 2021-22 allocation of 70,000.

WMU 2B had the most tags remaining, with 40,270 available for sale. Following 2B with at least 20,000 tags remaining were 4A, with 26,144 tags available; 5C, with 20,931 available; and 2A, with 20,157 available.

Other units with tags remaining for sale were 2C, with 13,585 available; 5D, with 12,424 available; 5A, with 8,861 available; 2E, with 7,649 available; 2D, with 2,573 available; and 4D, with 550 available.

Unlike previous rounds of sales, which all were conducted via mail, hunters can go to county treasurers’ offices in person to buy the tags they need starting Sept. 13. They also can mail in tag applications to those treasurers.

Any treasurer’s office in the state can sell tags for any WMU in the state. Tag sales are not limited to offices only in those WMUs where tags remain available.

So will hunters line up at any treasurers’ offices Sept. 13 looking to snatch up some more tags for the season?

I guess we’ll find out Monday.

Or is it possible, the Game Commission ends the year with more WMUs with unsold tags than in the past?

What do you think about this new system? Do you like it or not?

Is six doe tags too many tags for one hunter to have, or does it not really matter?

Is the unlimited season quota out of line, or is it a good idea?

Send an email at PREILLY@LNPNEWS.COM and tell me your thoughts.

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