WILKES-BARRE – According to statistics released by the Pennsylvania Game Commission at this week's quarterly board of game commissioners meeting held Monday and Tuesday at the Quality Inn, the October antlerless muzzleloader season is having its desired effect as part of the agency's deer-management program.
This year, the season will open Saturday, Oct. 16, and continue through Saturday, Oct. 23, and hunters must possess the appropriate general hunting license and a muzzleloader stamp. And while some traditionalists still resist the season and hold out to hunt during the flintlock-only season after Christmas, far more hunters enjoy the option of being able to use rifles using either inline, traditional percussion or flintlock ignitions during the antlerless muzzleloader season.
Another difference between the antlerless and flintlock-only seasons is that a Wildlife Management Unit-specific antlerless license or Deer Management Assistance Program antlerless deer permit must be used to take a doe during the October season. In the flintlock season, hunters in possession of their back tag may take an antlerless deer statewide, as well as an antlerless deer for each specific WMU license.
Hunters are also reminded that back tags must still be displayed during all seasons. Current legislation sponsored by Rep. Neil Goodman of Mahanoy City to eliminate this requirement has yet to be passed.
There is also a special firearms antlerless season that falls during the antlerless muzzleloader season. From Thursday to Saturday, Oct. 21-23, those holding a resident junior or senior license, a nonresident junior or nonresident adult license, a disabled person permit to use a vehicle as a blind, or be residents who are serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces or qualify for license and fee exceptions under section 2706 by use any legal sporting to take an antlerless deer in specific WMUs.
At this time, these two antlerless hunt are closed to participants in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program for unlicensed youth less than 12 years of age.
That could change by next year, as the board of commissioners voted 8-0 to support the proposal of board president Jay Delaney to have PGC executive director Carl Roe inform state legislators that the agency urges them to pass a law that will permit an adult hunter to transfer their antlerless tag to a Mentored Youth Hunter.
According to the PGC's Game-Take Survey, last year the 78,000 hunters who participated in the early muzzleloader season took 10,000 deer, and the 58,000 participants in the special firearms season took 5,000 deer – with the 15,000 total representing less than 10 percent of the 200,590 antlerless deer taken in 2009. Those figures compare favorably with 2008 when 12,000 deer were taken by muzzleloader hunter and 5,000 in the special firearms season and 2007 when 10,000 deer were taken by muzzleloader hunters and 6,000 in the special firearms season.
While muzzleloader and special firearms season hunters may take multiple deer each day, before attempting to take additional deer, the first deer must be lawfully tagged. Only in Special Regulations Area counties of Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia may hunters take multiple deer before tagging.
Statewide, deer must be tagged before the carcass is moved. Tags must be attached to the ear and remain attached until the deer is processed for consumption or prepared for mounting.
Hunters in either October firearms season are required to wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange clothing on the head, chest and back combined at all times. Bowhunters afield during the overlap of the archery and October antlerless firearms seasons also must wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent orange while moving and display an orange alert band while on stand.