It will be hunting as usual for the firearms deer season in the majority of the state when hunters go afield for opening day in late November.
Early in April, the Pennsylvania Game Commission board of commissioners met online and set seasons and bag limits for the 2020-21 license year.
They also rejected the proposed statewide concurrent antlered and antlerless, maintaining split seasons in 13 wildlife management units. Included are Northeast Pennsylvania WMUs 3B, 3C, 3D, 4C and 4E, which will have seven consecutive days of antlered-only hunting beginning opening day Saturday, Nov. 28 through Friday, Dec. 4. Those WMUs include all of Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Pike, Schuylkill, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties, and parts of Bradford, Berks, Dauphin, Lehigh, Lebanon, Lycoming, Monroe, Snyder, Tioga and Union counties.
Beginning Dec. 5, those WMUs will begin seven days of concurrent antlered and antlerless hunting through Dec. 12.
A major reason for not having a 14-day statewide concurrent season that was proposed at the January meeting is because it would have necessitated a major reduction across the board in antlerless allocations, according to commissioner Brian Hoover.
“We had a lot of public input and it was apparent hunters had become used to the split seasons and hoped they would continue,” Hoover said. “Had we gone with the statewide concurrent seasons, there would have been a 15 percent reduction in antlerless allocations, and we found out hunters like the idea of being able to get a doe tag.
“As for continuing the Saturday opener, it’s something we’re going to continue to look at because it means added opportunity. We understand it’s an adjustment for some who have camps, but we’re not going to change after one year.”
A demographic study of hunters between the ages of 20 and 40 years old indicates overwhelming support for the Saturday opening day for the firearms deer season.
College students who have Monday classes and workers with low seniority who are unable to take Monday as a vacation day fall within that age group.
“We understand the Saturday opener is a change in tradition, but there are many changes today in the way we live and do things,” commissioner Tim Layton said. “This is something that we will continue to look at for at least two more years so we have time to see the impact it has on young hunters and for that matter, out-of-state hunters.”
In addition to Sunday, Nov. 29, being included in the firearms deer season, two other Sundays are included in big game seasons, which were authorized by state legislators. Sunday, Nov. 15, is part of the statewide archery deer season and Sunday, Nov. 22, is part of the statewide general bear season.
This year will be the longest statewide archery season on record, opening Saturday, Oct. 3, and concluding Friday, Nov. 20. Originally, the commissioners proposed extending the season by adding Sunday, Nov. 15, to take advantage of the rut.
After requests from hunters and input from PGC staff, however, they voted to extend the season five more days until the start of the statewide bear season, which runs Saturday, Nov. 21 through Nov. 24, giving those hunting from camps the opportunity to have them prepared for the opening of firearms deer season.
WMUs with a fall turkey season opening day is Saturday, Oct. 31, with the length of the season varying. Most WMUs will also have a three-day Thanksgiving season from Nov. 25-27.
For the 2021 spring gobbler season, which runs May 1 through May 31, legal shooting hours will be 30 minutes before sunrise until noon through May 15; then from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset from May 17-31.
A one-day Spring Gobbler Youth Hunt will be April 24, from 30 minutes before sunrise until noon.