Fall Firearms Deer Seasons Making A Difference

Fall Firearms Deer Seasons Making A Difference

Pennsylvania Game Commission
Pennsylvania Game Commission

HARRISBURG, PA –-(AmmoLand.com)- The state’s early firearms antlerless deer seasons – early muzzleloader season, Oct. 17-24, and special firearms season for junior, senior, active duty military and certain disabled hunters, Oct. 22-24 – will soon be here, along with seasons for squirrels and grouse, so there will be plenty of activity in the state’s forested areas, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

“In addition to small game and firearms deer hunters, bowhunters also will be afield,” said Calvin DuBrock, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management director. “Some of our most popular hunting seasons are about to begin and hunters are looking forward to heading afield.

“Of course, the fall firearms deer seasons are relatively new when compared to the decades-old small game seasons. And it wasn’t that long ago that Pennsylvania had only a four-week archery season. But these early deer seasons have been warmly received by many deer hunters, because they have extended the window of opportunity for them to take a deer and typically are held when the weather makes it more comfortable to be afield.”

DuBrock noted that these early antlerless deer seasons provide Pennsylvanians more ways to fit deer hunting into their busy schedules, and offer a more relaxing hunt to people who dislike cold weather and woods filled with large numbers of hunters.

“But the October firearms seasons are so much more than another time and another way to hunt deer,” emphasized DuBrock. “These seasons are part of our deer management strategy to stabilize whitetail numbers in most areas of the Commonwealth, and in the process, improve forested wildlife habitat and deer health, and reduce crop damage and other deer-human conflicts.

“Although the October antlerless seasons increase hunting opportunities, their harvests still are controlled by antlerless deer license allocations, which are set to remove a pre-determined number of antlerless deer from a Wildlife Management Unit (WMU).”

Hunters heading afield for the October firearms seasons should find fair to good numbers of deer in most areas, but other areas will support substantially less or more.

Last year, according to the agency’s Game-Take Survey, the 78,000 hunters who participated in the early muzzleloader season took 12,100 deer (10,000 in 2007). The 43,000 participants in the special firearms season harvested 5,400 deer (6,500 in 2007). Those figures compare with 12,300 in the 2006 October muzzleloader season and 8,500 in the special firearms season. The combined total of both October firearms seasons comprised less than 10 percent of the 2008 antlerless deer harvest, which was 213,440.

Hunters who wish to participate in the early muzzleloader season must have a general hunting license, muzzleloader stamp and an unused antlerless deer license or Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) antlerless deer permit. Hunters may use in-line, percussion and flintlock muzzleloaders during the early muzzleloader season. They also may use scopes, peep-sights and other lawful sighting devices on muzzleloaders during the October hunt.

To participate in the special firearms antlerless season, hunters must have a general hunting license and unused antlerless deer license and qualify in one of the following license categories: resident junior and senior license holders; nonresident junior license holder; nonresident adult license holders age 65 and older; persons who hold a disabled person permit to use a vehicle as a blind; residents who are serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces; and those who qualify for license and fee exceptions under section 2706. Sporting arms permitted include: manually-operated center-fire rifles, handguns and shotguns; 44-caliber or larger muzzleloading long guns; 50-caliber or larger muzzleloading handguns; long, recurve or compound bows; and crossbows.

These two antlerless deer seasons are not open to participants of the Mentored Youth Hunting Program, which was created for those under the age of 12, since mentored youth may not harvest antlerless deer. (For more information on the Mentored Youth Hunting Program, please consult page 13 of the 2009-10 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, which is provided to each license buyer.)

Hunters are advised that they may take only antlerless deer in the early muzzleloader and special firearms seasons and that they may hunt only in the Wildlife Management Units or Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) areas for which they have obtained antlerless deer licenses. An antlerless deer is defined as a deer without antlers, or a deer with antlers, both of which are less than three inches in length.

Muzzleloader and special firearms season hunters are reminded that when multiple harvests of deer per day are permitted, only one deer at a time may be taken. Before attempting to take an additional deer, the first deer must be lawfully tagged. However, in Special Regulations Area counties of Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia, hunters may shoot multiple deer before tagging. Deer must be tagged immediately after they are harvested and before the carcass is moved. The tag must be attached to the ear and remain attached until the deer is processed for consumption or prepared for mounting.

Any hunter who by accident or mistake kills an illegal deer is required to deliver the carcass – entrails removed – within 12 hours of the kill to any Game Commission officer in the county where the deer was killed. A written statement also must be provided to the officer explaining when, where and how the accident or mistake occurred. The deer must be tagged with the appropriate deer harvest tag.

Hunters may purchase muzzleloader licenses at any time. The license entitles them to hunt in both the fall antlerless muzzleloader season and the traditional flintlock season. Regulations for the after-Christmas muzzleloader season remain unchanged: hunters may use only primitive type muzzleloading long guns .44-caliber or larger with flintlock ignition systems and primitive sighting devices. Fiber-optic inserts are permitted in sighting devices.

Hunters in either October firearms season are required to wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange clothing on the head, chest and back combined at all times. Bowhunters afield during the overlap of the archery and October antlerless firearms seasons also must wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent orange while moving and display an orange alert band while on stand.