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Outdoors: Pa. hunting season dates up for approval
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Outdoors: Pa. hunting season dates up for approval

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With the trout season dates etched onto the calendar for 2021, get to scratching fall months with proposed hunting seasons that will get formal approval in April. Ah, vacation days to come.

Again, fall turkey season will be closed in Wildlife Management Unit 5A, which includes a good-sized portion of southern Cumberland County.

Depressed population trends bring the closure for big birds, and in line with the wild turkey management plan to increase hen survival. Season length was reduced in 14 other WMUs because of declining turkey populations there.

The slate of deer seasons looks like this:

  • The statewide archery season for antlered and antlerless deer will be Oct. 2-Nov. 13; Sunday, Nov. 14, Nov. 15-19; and Dec. 27 to Jan. 17, 2022.
  • Sandwiched in there will be the antlerless muzzleloader statewide, Oct. 16-23.
  • The special firearms season for antlerless deer would be Oct. 21-23 for junior and senior license holders, mentored youth permit holders, those with disabled person permits, and Pennsylvania residents on active military duty.
  • The regular statewide firearms season for deer will be Saturday, Nov. 27, Sunday, Nov. 28, and Nov. 29 through Dec. 11.
  • The statewide flintlock season after Christmas will be Dec. 27 through Jan. 17.

Black bear season statewide opens on Saturday, Nov. 20 and continues Sunday, Nov. 21, 22 and 23.

In WMU 5A, the bear season will overlap with deer season and be Nov. 29-Dec. 4. Archery season for bears in WMU 5A would be Oct. 16 to Nov. 6 and included in the archery season for deer.

Statewide muzzleloader season for bears will be Oct. 16-23.

Elk season for bowhunters will be Sept. 11-25; and then Nov. 1-6 for the regular season, by drawing. The late season will be Jan. 1-8, 2022.

For those of you who haven’t heard, the statewide Mentored Youth Trout Day will be Saturday, March 27. The statewide opening day for trout will be Saturday, April 3.

Report highlights

The Fish and Boat Commission and the Game Commission presented its annual reports to the House Game and Fisheries Committee. The full rundown is available at the agencies’ websites.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Game Executive Director Bryan Burhans said the commission would like to build on the success of providing three days of hunting on Sundays.

As this fiscal year nears its end in June, over 11,626 chronic wasting disease samples have been collected through participation of hunters, agency staff and collaborators. Of samples collected so far this year, 196 were positive for CWD. Of 15,822 samples collected the previous year, 206 were positive.

In wildlife protection, 103 full-time state game wardens, assisted by 247 deputy wardens, were active across the state in 2020. Of the commission’s 134 warden districts, 31 were vacant. On average, each full-time warden was responsible for covering more than 400 square miles.

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During fiscal year 2019-20, wardens issued just over 6,000 warnings, which represents almost one warning for each citation. The success rate of cases prosecuted by wardens was 96.6%.

Over 221,231 pheasants were stocked, and they were hunted by 49,613 adults and 13,220 juniors. Sales of pheasant permits were 13% higher than in 2017 when they were initiated.

A bill in the Legislature would allow the commission to shift the sale of antlerless licenses from the counties to the online licensing system.

In his report, Fish and Boat Commission Executive Tim Schaeffer said the commission saw a 20% increase in fishing license sales in 2020, which was even higher than the national average of 14%. Pennsylvania now has over 980,000 licensed anglers, the most since 1995.

The commission’s launch permits, which are required to use both commission and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources facilities, saw a 36% increase in 2020, for a total of 166,000 active permits.

Schaeffer said that by reinvesting angler and boater dollars, the commission has embarked on a $26 million plan to upgrade aging infrastructure like access areas and hatcheries, eliminate a backlog of deferred maintenance, and replace unserviceable and aging vehicles and equipment.

With graduation last year of 19 new officers, the agency is near a full complement of 100 waterways conservation officers.

The commission also hired an aquatic invasive species coordinator to lead the ongoing fight against the devastating effects of species like hydrilla, Asian carp, zebra mussels and northern snakeheads.

Schaeffer said Gov. Tom Wolf in February 2020 released $23.8 million in capital budget funding as part of a comprehensive, multiyear $43.5 million plan to repair another 10 hazardous dams.

The commission recently added a new Bureau of Boating under its Office of Field Operations. The bureau will oversee watercraft safety programs, as well as waterways and marina management.

License price break

Nonresident students going to universities in Pennsylvania can now get discounted fishing licenses at the same price residents pay.

The $22.97 cost is the same as an annual resident fishing license and can save eligible students $30 over the cost of an annual nonresident license at $52.97.

Eligible students can buy a discounted fishing license through the HuntFishPA online licensing system accessible at fishandboat.com, or they can visit one of 700 retail license issuing agents.

Holders of this license must be able to provide proof of eligibility, such as a current college ID, if requested by a waterways conservation officer while fishing.

Snapshots

  • Julie Queen is the new manager of the Appalachian Trail Museum. A long-time resident of south-central Pennsylvania, Julie has served as an AT community ambassador for Boiling Springs.
  • A report from the National Deer Association says Pennsylvania is one of three states in the U.S. (behind Texas and Michigan) where hunters kill more than 300,000 deer annually.
  • Until April 30, it is mandatory to wear a life jacket while underway or at anchor on boats less than 16 feet in length, or any canoe or kayak.

Send your wild thoughts and photos to bjsmall@comcast.net.

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