Deer hunting season underway
Pennsylvania's only unofficial holiday - the Monday after Thanksgiving - marks the opening day of the two-week general deer season, and will feature nearly 750,000 individuals sporting fluorescent orange throughout Penn's Woods, according to Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe.
Antler restrictions in place this year mirror those from the previous year. For Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and 2D, hunters need to identify three antler points, not including the brow tine, which is the point immediately above the antler burr. In the remainder of the state, antler restrictions remain a minimum of at least three points on one side.
Statewide, all junior license holders, mentored youth hunters, disabled hunters with a permit to use a vehicle and resident active-duty U.S. Armed Services personnel have a minimum antler restrictions of one antler with at least two points, or one antler three or more inches in length.
For those hunters in 11 WMUs, there is a split-season structure, in which the first five days (Nov. 26-30) are open for antlered deer only and the remaining seven days (Dec. 1-8) are open for antlered and antlerless deer. Those WMUs are 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3B, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E. In the other 11 WMUs, antlered and antlerless deer are in season from Nov. 26-Dec. 8.
"In addition to being a rich part of our state's heritage, deer season is critical in managing Pennsylvania's whitetails," Roe said. "The efforts of hunters are far-reaching; they help to keep deer populations in check, and enable the agency to meet deer management goals that benefit those who reside, visit or travel through this state."
Roe noted that hunters will need to make sure that they have done their pre-season scouting, as fall food conditions, development, posted property and other factors 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," Roe said. "Pre-season scouting can improve a hunter's chance for success this year.
"Recognizing the impacts dramatic changes on the landscape may have on deer movements will be just as important - if not more important - as identifying those locations where deer are feeding regularly. Spending time afield before season often leads to better hunting opportunities."
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.
During the two-week season, hunters may use any legal sporting arm, as outlined on page 45 of the 2012-13 Digest. Rifles are not permitted to be used in Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware or Montgomery counties, however, shotguns and muzzleloaders are legal. Deer hunters in Philadelphia may use only bows or crossbows.
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.
For those hunters who plan to visit both a deer processor and taxidermist, it is important to remember that state law requires the deer harvest carcass tag to remain with the head at the taxidermist, and that a second hand-made tag containing the name, address and license number of the person who harvested the deer and the location of the harvest should remain with the rest of the carcass going to the processor.
Roe noted that properly licensed bear hunters who still possess an unused bear tag come deer season may take a bear during all or portions of the first week of deer season, but only in certain WMUs. Sale of bear licenses will continue through Nov. 16, after which it will close and then reopen briefly Nov. 22 to 25. Specific seasons and reporting requirements for taking bears during deer season are outlined on page 36-38 of the 2012-13 Digest issued with the purchase of a hunting license. The Digest also may be viewed on the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us).
HARVEST REPORTING AVAILABLE VIA POSTCARD, ONLINE OR TELEPHONE
Those participating in the upcoming deer season will be able to file their mandatory harvest reports through the Pennsylvania Game Commission's online system; the toll-free Interactive Voice Response (IVR) telephone harvest reporting system, which is 1-855-PAHUNT1 (1-855-724-8681); or via postage-paid postcard.
To report a deer harvest online, go to the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on "Report Your Harvest" above the "Quick Clicks" box in the right-hand column, click on "You can link to PALS by clicking here," check "Harvest Reporting," scroll down and 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 should have their Customer Identification Number (hunting license number) and field harvest tag information with them when they call, and should speak clearly and distinctly when reporting harvests, especially when providing the Wildlife Management Unit number and letter.
"Hunters may report one or more harvests in a single session," Roe said. "Responses to all harvest questions are required.
"Hunters who use the toll-free number to submit a harvest report will receive a confirmation number, which they should write down and keep as proof of reporting. Those who report online should print or save a copy of their harvest report submission as proof of reporting."
Roe noted that hunters still have the option to file harvest report postcards, which are included as tear-out sheets in the current digest.
"We certainly are encouraging hunters to use the online reporting system, which will ensure that their harvest is recorded," Roe said. "The more important point is that all hunters do their part in deer management and report their harvested deer to the agency."
HUNTING LICENSES NO LONGER NEED TO BE DISPLAYED
Hunters and trappers are reminded they no longer are required to display their licenses on an outer garment, said Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe.
"The Game Commission supported legislation that was enacted last year and took effect earlier this year to remove the statutory requirement that licenses be displayed," Roe said. "Hunters now may place their hunting license in their wallet with other ID, as they are required to have a second form of identification with them while hunting."
HUNTERS CAN CHECK ON TRAFFIC AND ROAD CONDITIONS IN ADVANCE
As road conditions are sometimes "iffy" for deer seasons, hunters can check traffic and road conditions on more than 2,900 miles of roadways by simply calling "511" or logging onto the state Department of Transportation's website (www.511pa.com) before heading out to camp this year.
"'511PA' is Pennsylvania's official travel information service," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "This service from PennDOT provides travelers with reliable, current traffic and weather information. This site enables hunters to check on the status of road conditions before heading out to camp."
HUNTERS SHARING THE HARVEST A WORTHY CAUSE
Hunters who are successful in the upcoming deer hunting seasons are encouraged by the Pennsylvania Game Commission to consider participating in the state's Hunters Sharing the Harvest (HSH) program, which channels donations of venison to local food banks, soup kitchens and needy families. Pennsylvania's HSH program is recognized as one of the most successful among similar programs in about 40 states.
"Using a network of local volunteer area coordinators and cooperating meat processors to process and distribute venison donated by hunters, HSH has really helped to make a difference for countless needy families and individuals in our state," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "Pennsylvanians who participate in this extremely beneficial program should be proud of the role they play. HSH truly does make a tremendous difference."
Started in 1991, HSH has developed into a refined support service for organizations that assist the Commonwealth's needy. Each year, Hunters Sharing the Harvest helps to deliver almost 200,000 meals to food banks, churches and social services feeding programs.
"This program is all about the generosity of hunters and their desire to help make a difference," Roe said. "It's a program that many hunters have become committed to and enjoy supporting. After all, what is more gratifying than helping others in need?"
As part of the program, hunters are encouraged to take a deer to a participating meat processor and identify how much of their deer meat - from an entire deer to several pounds - that is to be donated to HSH. If the hunter is donating an entire deer, he or she is asked to make a $15 tax-deductible co-pay, and HSH will cover the remaining processing fees. However, a hunter can cover the entire costs of the processing, which is tax deductible as well.
HSH established a statewide toll-free telephone number - 1-866-474-2141 - which can answer hunters' questions about where participating meat processors can be found or other general inquiries about the program.
To learn more about the program and obtain a list of participating meat processors and county coordinators, visit the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on "Hunters Sharing the Harvest" in the "Quick Clicks" box in the right-hand column of the homepage, or go to the HSH website (www.sharedeer.org).