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Deer Season Countdown in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG – The state’s biggest draw for hunters is set to begin the Monday after Thanksgiving, according to Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe, when the two-week firearms deer season opens.

“Fluorescent orange and camouflage clothing soon will be in fashion across the Commonwealth, and cars parked on the shoulders of roads that cut through forested areas or farming communities will be a common sight,” Roe said. “Deer season has a dramatic effect on the Pennsylvania; it provides hundreds of thousands of hunters a chance to put venison in the freezer, as well as stimulates a multi-million dollar economic surge that local businesses rely on.

“Deer season is the most important method that the Game Commission has been using for more than a century to manage Pennsylvania’s whitetails. The efforts of hunters are far-reaching, and they help to keep deer populations in check and enable the agency to meet deer management goals that benefit almost everyone who resides, visits or travels through this state.”

The Game Commission manages deer for a healthy and productive deer herd that provides recreational opportunities within acceptable ecological impacts and human conflicts. It’s a never-ending job, and one that will always be influenced by Pennsylvania’s changing landscape and the varying viewpoints of its residents. But, the agency is committed to providing sound deer management.

Dr. Christopher Rosenberry, Game Commission Deer Management Section supervisor, noted that hunters will need to make sure that they have done their pre-season scouting, as fall food conditions will impact deer movements.

“Deer will respond to food availability and hunter pressure, both of which can vary from year to year, and from one area to another,” Rosenberry said. “Our fall food survey suggests that almost all hard and soft mast species produced well this year. As a result, wildlife may be more widespread in forested areas. As always, pre-season scouting can improve a hunter’s chance for success this year.”

For the second year, deer season will open with a five-day, antlered deer-only season in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 2D, 2G, 3C and 4B, from Nov. 30-Dec. 4. It is followed immediately in these four WMUs by seven days of concurrent, antlered and antlerless deer hunting beginning Dec. 5 and continuing through Dec.12. The rest of the state follows the two-week concurrent, antlered and antlerless season – Nov. 30-Dec. 12 – that has been in place since 2001.

The changes to these four WMUs are being studied by Game Commission biologists and the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Penn State University to learn more about the relationship between antlerless allocations and season length.

The Game Commission will use a four-year study to determine the impact and effectiveness of the five-day antlered/seven-day concurrent season before additional WMUs may be considered for this season configuration. It also will assess hunter satisfaction with the modified season structure in the four WMUs.

Hunters must wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined at all times while afield during the seasons. They also are advised that it’s illegal to hunt, chase or disturb deer within 150 yards of any occupied building without the occupant’s permission if they are using a firearm, or 50 yards if they are using a bow or crossbow.

All hunters who take a deer must fill out their harvest tag and attach it to the deer’s ear before moving the carcass. The tag can be secured to the base of the ear with a string drawn very tightly, if the hunter plans to have the deer mounted. Cutting a slit in the ear to attach the tag will require additional work by a taxidermist.

Deer hunters in certain Wildlife Management Units with an unused bear license also are reminded they may take a bear in the state’s extended black bear season. Bear licenses must be purchased prior to Nov. 30 to participate in these hunts. For more information, including hours and locations for bear check stations during the extended season, please see the bear section of the 2009-10 Digest on pages 34-36.

Interested in learning more about what’s going on with whitetails in your county? Please consider visiting the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s “Field Officer Forecasts” found on the agency’s website ( These reports were developed to share field officer perspectives and observations on game and furbearer trends in their respective districts and to help hunters and trappers get closer to the action afield.

“Our field officers spend a tremendous amount of time afield, often in areas hunters and trappers are eager to learn more about,” said Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe. “Their observations have value to hunters and trappers so we decided to make them accessible to anyone who enjoys hunting and trapping in Pennsylvania – resident or nonresident.”

The Pennsylvania Game Commission counts on hunters to provide information on the deer they harvest. And, to make reporting a deer harvest easier, the Game Commission reminds hunters that they can now file their harvest reports through the agency’s new online system.

To report a deer harvest online, go to the Game Commission’s website (, click on the blue box in the upper right-hand corner of the website, select “Harvest Reporting,” then click on the “Start Here” button at the bottom of the page, choose the method of validating license information, and click on the checkbox for the harvest tag being reported. A series of options will appear for a hunter to report a harvest. After filling in the harvest information, click on the “Continue” button to review the report and then hit the “Submit” button to complete the report. Failing to hit the “Submit” button will result in a harvest report not being completed.

“Hunters may report one or more harvests in a single session,” Roe said. “Responses to all harvest questions are required.”

Roe noted that hunters still have the option to file a harvest report postcard, which are included as tear-out sheets in the annual digest they received when they purchased their licenses.

“We certainly are encouraging hunters to use the online reporting system, which will ensure that their harvest is recorded and save the Game Commission money on postage and data entry costs,” Roe said. “Either way, the more important point is that all hunters who harvest a deer report it to the agency.”

The omission of a regulation that has been in place for decades in this year’s digest has caused some hunters and trappers to wonder whether they still are required to display their licenses in the middle of the back as has been done for many, many years. Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe answered, “Yes, it still needs to be displayed.”

Roe noted that the Game Commission is supporting House Bill 460, sponsored by Rep. Neil Goodman (D-Schuylkill), which proposes to remove the statutory requirement that licenses be displayed, and thereby allow hunters to place their hunting license in their wallet with other ID.

Roe said, when the agency was drafting the digest, it was believed that the HB 460 may be enacted before the start of the license year on July 1. So, to avoid potentially conflicting information, a decision was made to modify the wording about the requirement that licenses must be displayed.

“License buyers do need to remember that the digest is not the ‘Game & Wildlife Code’ or its attendant regulations, and should not be considered final on legal interpretation,” Roe said. “In printing the digest, the agency simply summarizes the more important and frequently misunderstood hunting and trapping regulations.”

Kevin Paulson

Kevin Paulson is the Founder and CEO of His passion for Hunting began at the age of 5 hunting alongside of his father. Kevin has followed his dreams through outfitting, conservation work, videography and hunting trips around the world.

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