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Several changes in place as rifle deer season opens Saturday in Pennsylvania

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Wisconsin's gun deer season is a week away, and ammunition may be harder for hunters to find this year.

There are several changes to Pennsylvania’s firearms deer season, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The season begins on Saturday and continues on Sunday, providing hunters a full weekend to be afield. Deer season then runs through Dec. 11, closing only on Dec. 5.

Licensed hunters can kill either an antlered or antlerless deer at any time throughout the season anywhere in the state. That’s a change from last year, when just 10 wildlife management units allowed concurrent buck and doe hunting.

The number of antlerless tags available this season was reduced in many WMUs compared to last to account for the additional days of antlerless hunting.

The commission this year made it possible for hunters willing to use antlerless tags to get more of them if the allocation hasn’t been sold out. It adopted a regulation change allowing hunters to hold up to six antlerless licenses at a time. That’s up from three previously.

Increasing the licenses-per-hunter limit better ensures tags are issued to the fullest extent possible. It also gives hunters the chance to buy antlerless tags deeper into hunting season, the commission said.

A few WMUs still had antlerless tags available for purchase this week.

Hunters harvested an estimated 435,180 deer in the 2020-21 seasons. That was 12 percent higher than the 2019-20 harvest of 389,431 and the highest harvest in 15 years.

Antlered deer were a large part of that. Hunters took 174,780 bucks last year. That was up from 163,240 in 2019-20 and 147,750 in 2018-19, and the most ever in the antler restrictions era.

Ammunition shortage

A nationwide ammunition shortage due to the supply chain issues affecting other products has left hunters searching far and wide for ammo in the first place and then shelling out more money if they do find it.

One of the nation’s biggest ammunition manufacturers, Vista Outdoor in Anoka, Minnesota, told the Associated Press it’s “ramping production ahead of schedule at its Remington facility to meet unprecedented demand.”

The price of is almost any caliber ammunition is double what it was a year ago if you can find it. Manufacturers say the pandemic created new gun buyers along with more hunters looking for something to do outside, WISN-TV reported.

More than 570,000 deer hunters from around the world are expected to try their luck in this year’s nine-day season, Department of Natural Resources officials said.

Licenses

Hunters are permitted to kill one antlered deer with a valid general hunting license, which costs $20.97 for adult residents and $101.97 for adult nonresidents.

To kill an antlerless deer, a hunter must possess either a valid antlerless deer license or valid Deer Management Assistance Program permit. A mentored hunter under the age of 7 cannot apply for their own antlerless license or DMAP permit but can harvest an antlerless deer if an antlerless license or DMAP permit is transferred to them by a mentor at the time of the kill.

Antlerless deer licenses can be used anywhere within the Wildlife Management Unit for which they’re issued.

A DMAP permit can be used only on the specific property for which it is issued.

Mentored hunting permits are available to hunters of all ages. Mentored hunters ages 7 and older receive an antlered deer harvest tag with their permit. Those under 7 must receive deer harvest tags from their mentors. A mentor can transfer an antlered deer harvest tag and an antlerless license and/or DMAP permit to a mentored hunter under 7.

Mentored hunters ages 7 and older can apply for one antlerless deer license. They can also apply for DMAP permits, following the same regulations as adults.

Mentored hunting permit fees are $2.97 for residents and nonresidents under 12; $6.97 for residents 12 to 16; $41.97 for nonresidents 12 to 16; $20.97 for residents 17 and older; and $101.97 for nonresidents 17 and older.

Hunters 12 or older who are certified through the Game Commission’s Hunter-Trapper Education program qualify to purchase general hunting licenses, which provide more privileges. Certified hunters 12 to 16 can obtain junior licenses, the least expensive of which cost $6.97 for residents and $41.97 for nonresidents.

Those holding senior lifetime licenses must obtain a new antlered deer harvest tag each year, free of charge, to participate in the season.

General hunting licenses can be purchased online, but as the season nears, hunters might find it better to purchase licenses in person. Hunters can carry a digital version of their general license afield, but still need their paper harvest tags. Deer licenses purchased online are mailed, so those harvest tags might not arrive in time if purchased too close to the start of the season.

Deer season regulations

For a complete breakdown of antler restrictions, WMU boundaries and other regulations, consult the 2021-22 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, which is provided to hunters at the time they purchase their licenses and available online at the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.pa.gov.

Deer hunters everywhere statewide, meanwhile, must wear at all times a minimum of 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on their head, chest and back combined, visible from 360 degrees, during the firearms deer season. An orange hat and vest will satisfy the requirement.

Nonhunters who might be afield during deer season and other hunting seasons should consider wearing orange, as well.

Hunters who kill a deer are required to affix a valid tag to the ear, not an antler, before the deer is moved. The tag must be filled out with a ballpoint pen and notched or cut with the correct date of harvest.

Hunters must then report their kill to the Game Commission within 10 days. Deer kills can be reported online at www.huntfish.pa.gov, by calling 1-800-838-4431 or by mailing in the postage-paid cards that are provided in the digest.

Mentored youth hunters are required to report deer kills within five days. And hunters with DMAP permits must report on their success within 10 days of the last possible date of harvest, regardless of whether they kill deer.

Chronic wasting disease

Managing deer in Pennsylvania means managing chronic wasting disease.

Up-to-date DMA boundaries can be viewed at www.pgc.pa.gov/CWD.

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