HARRISBURG — For the thousands of hunters who purchased a Pennsylvania hunting license with the primary purpose of hunting the firearms deer season, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is one step away from rewarding their loyalty.

That final step is expected when the PGC board of game commissioners gives final approval to the 2019-20 seasons and bag limits at its quarterly meeting, Tuesday, April 9, at the agency’s Harrisburg headquarters. Tuesday, by a unanimous 8-0, the board gave preliminary for the firearms deer season to open Saturday, Nov. 30, breaking away from the traditional opening day of the first Monday following Thanksgiving Day.

Also pending final approval at the April meeting, once again throughout most of Pennsylvania — with Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5C and 5D being the exceptions — there will be a six-day, antlered-only season until Saturday, Dec. 7. Then both antlered and antlerless deer will be legal through the final day of the season, Saturday, Dec. 14.

Southeast Region commissioner Brian Hoover said the change had been discussed for some time and came close to going into effect for the current license year. He said the board felt this was the right time to do the right thing for younger generation of hunters.

“Tradition has always been the big stumbling block in Pennsylvania no matter what changes are proposed,” Hoover said. “It is our feeling that tradition starts the first day something is done, and we had to do this at this time.

“We found that most older hunters didn’t want change because Monday had always been the opening day. Things are not as they were just 10 years ago, however, and there are fewer school districts closing the Monday after Thanksgiving, which means fewer youngsters have the opportunity to hunt deer on opening day.

“Another group being adversely affected with the Monday opening day is college students who have to return to campuses after Thanksgiving. We also heard from young adults who lack seniority in their place of work and are unable to schedule opening day as a vacation day because they lack seniority.”

With the firearms deer season opening the Saturday after Thanksgiving Day, the traditional three-day fall turkey season will be reduced to Thanksgiving and Friday. Approximately 30 percent of the fall turkeys are taken during this three-day season, but reducing it by one day could be a benefit. According to PGC wild turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena even reducing the fall season by one day could help the statewide turkey population, which has been declining slightly, and birds that survive should have a positive impact for spring gobbler season.

In other news concerning deer the mystery surrounding the deaths of approximately two dozen deer in upper Dauphin County has apparently been solved by preliminary test results for three deer from the Powell’s Valley area. All three had one or more types of pneumonia, but further testing to check for the presence of other diseases has not yet returned results.

It appears pneumonia was present in the local herd and the smaller, weaker animals had characteristics of many of those that were reported dead succumbed to the disease. Dehydration symptoms apparent in the deer initially examined by the PGC also could be attributed to pneumonia, which is a rare occurrence in deer and the reasons it might have cropped up in the area are unknown.

Reports of dead and sickly deer in Powell’s Valley have tapered off in recent weeks, which could indicate the problem has been alleviated. Still, the PGC encourages those who see deer that appear to be sick or encounter deer that have died from unapparent causes to report them to the Southeast Region Office at (610) 926-3136.

Major changes have received preliminary approval that will expand bear hunting, including a seven-day concurrent antlerless muzzleloader season. Also, a two-week archery bear season has been proposed for the last two weeks of archery deer season, and expanding the concurrent seasons during firearms deer season.

(Dietz is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association)

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