The Pennsylvania Game Commission Tuesday voted to move the first day of rifle deer season to the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

HARRISBURG — Deer hunting season in Pennsylvania will start on a Saturday rather than a Monday beginning next season.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission voted 5-3 Tuesday to move opening day of deer rifle season to the first Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Rifle season for hunting deer in Pennsylvania has kicked off the Monday after Thanksgiving since 1963. The change expands the firearms season to 13-days, including three Saturdays rather than two.

Supporters hope a Saturday opening will bring back people struggling to find time to hunt and help high school and college hunters who don’t get opening day off from school.

Opponents said the change would interfere with hunting camp traditions and complicate travel during the Thanksgiving weekend.

The commissioners were also split on the issue. Commissioner James Daley made an amendment to retain the opening day as the Monday after Thanksgiving, and commissioners Tim Layton and Michael Mitrick voted with him. The board voted 5-3 for the Saturday opener, according to the game commission.

Commissioners said support for the effort varied across the state, but Commissioner Brian Hoover said the change is important in getting more hunters to participate and to recruit younger hunters.

“We need to look to the future concerning our hunters and bringing in more youth,” Hoover said.

To accommodate the expanded deer season, the late November turkey hunting season has been reduced by two days.

The board gave preliminary approval to the idea in January.

Other changes to hunting seasons that were approved Tuesday were:

  • expanding the mid-October muzzleloader and special firearms deer seasons to include bears statewide
  • increasing to two weeks the length of the statewide archery bear season and shifting it to the two weeks following muzzleloader and special firearms bear seasons
  • expanding four-day extended bear seasons to seven days in most wildlife management units
  • expanding the late archery and flintlock deer seasons by more than a week, to end on Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • establishing a September archery season and a January antlerless season for elk hunters
  • expanding bobcat hunting and trapping seasons to WMU 4B
  • extending fisher trapping opportunity to WMU 4A
  • extending fisher trapping season by three days to end Jan. 5
  • increasing the season limit on beavers from 20 to 40 in WMUs 2A and 2B
  • and reducing the length of the porcupine season by about 10 weeks statewide.

The board also voted to allocate 903,000 antlerless deer licenses statewide, which is up from the 838,000 licenses allocated for 2018-19. License allocations for local wildlife management units are 22,000 (down from 23,000 last year) for WMU 5A where most of Cumberland County lies; 32,000 (up from 26,000) in WMU 4B, which covers northern Cumberland County as well as Perry and Juniata counties; and 67,000 (up from 58,000) for WMU 5B, which covers the West Shore, as well as York and Lancaster counties and the southern part of Dauphin and Lebanon counties.

Hunting licenses for 2019-20 go on sale in mid-June and become effective July 1.

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