Pennsylvania’s statewide archery deer season begins Saturday, Oct. 3, and its return is prompting the Pennsylvania Game Commission to issue some helpful reminders.
Archers statewide can hunt for antlered or antlerless deer from Oct. 3 to Nov. 14; Sunday, Nov. 15; and from Nov. 16-20, and during the late archery deer season, which runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 18.
The statewide season will include a Sunday hunt on Nov. 15 and also will include an additional seventh week for the first time ever. A statewide bear archery season also will run from Oct. 17 to Nov. 7.
At the time of the statewide opener, archery hunters in three urbanized areas of the state will have had a two-week head start to their seasons. An early season for antlered and antlerless deer in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5C and 5D kicks off on Sept. 19 and runs through Nov. 14; Sunday, Nov. 15; and Nov. 16-27.
Properly licensed bowhunters in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D also may take antlered and antlerless deer during an extended late archery season, which runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 26.
Archery hunters may use long, recurve or compound bows, or crossbows. Bows must have a draw weight of at least 35 pounds; crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds.
The Game Commission encourages hunters to spend as much time as possible afield this fall prior to and during the hunting seasons to pattern deer movements and identify areas where fall foods are abundant. Food availability changes from year to year, and in areas where food is spotty, deer often move to find better feed. Hotspots change from one year to the next, even from early to later weeks of the season, so tracking deer activity and their keying on food sources is important to success.
Bowhunters are urged to take only responsible shots at deer to ensure a quick, clean kill. Archery and crossbow hunters should take only broadside or quartering-away shots at deer within their maximum effective shooting range, which differs for each hunter depending on their skill level and type of equipment used.
Hunters may use illuminated nocks for arrows and bolts; they aid in tracking or locating the arrow or bolt after being launched. However, transmitter-tracking arrows are illegal.
Tree stands and climbing devices that cause damage to trees are unlawful to use or occupy unless the user has written permission from the landowner. Tree stands – or tree steps – penetrating a tree’s cambium layer cause damage, and it is unlawful to build or occupy tree stands screwed or nailed to trees on state game lands, state forests or state parks.
Hunters are reminded portable hunting tree stands and blinds are not permitted on state game lands until two weeks before the opening of the archery deer season, and they must be removed no later than two weeks after the close of the flintlock and late archery deer seasons in the WMU being hunted.
Tree stands placed on state game lands also must be conspicuously marked with a durable identification tag that identifies the stand owner. Tags may include the owner’s name and address, the CID number that appears on the owner’s hunting license, or a unique identification number issued by the Game Commission. Identification numbers can be obtained at The Outdoor Shop on the Game Commission’s website.
Bowhunters also are reminded that the state’s new “Purple Paint Law” now is in effect. It entitles landowners to mark their boundaries with purple markings, instead of signs.
Another new law requires hunters on private property to carry written permission from the landowner when hunting on the three new Sundays expanded hunting is offered: Nov. 15 for archery deer hunting; Nov. 22 for bear hunting during the statewide general season; and Nov. 29 for deer hunting during the firearms deer season. Only those species may be hunted on the identified Sundays.
Safety tips for bowhunters:
- Make sure someone knows where you’re hunting and when you expect to return home. Leave a note or topographic map with your family or a friend. Pack a cellphone for emergencies.
- Always use a fall-restraint device – preferably a full-body harness – when hunting from a tree stand. Wear the device from the moment you leave the ground until you return. Don’t climb dead, wet or icy trees. Stay on the ground on blustery days. Keep yourself in good physical condition. Fatigue can impact judgment, coordination and reaction time, as well as accuracy.
- Use a hoist rope to lift your bow and backpack to your tree stand. Trying to climb with either will place you at unnecessary risk.
- Don’t sleep in a tree stand! If you can’t stay awake, return to the ground.
- Always carry broadhead-tipped arrows in a protective quiver.
- If you use a mechanical release, always keep your index finger away from the trigger when drawing.
- Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for all equipment and check your equipment before each use.
- Practice climbing with your tree stand before dawn on the opening day of the season. Consider placing non-slip material on the deck of your tree stand if it’s not already there.
- Avoid walking with a nocked, broadhead-tipped arrow or bolt.
- Cocked crossbows should always be pointed in a safe direction.
- Always carry a whistle to signal passersby in the event you become immobile. A compass and matches or lighter and tinder also are essential survival gear items to have along. An extra flashlight bulb also can be helpful.