HARISBURG – Last year, area deer hunters who hunt the mountains of northern Schuylkill County and other areas of Wildlife Management Unit 4E were affected by a regulation passed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission board of game commission that was designed to increase the size of the herd.

That regulation limited the first five days of the firearms season to taking only antlered deer, with concurrent antlered and antlerless hunting opening the first Saturday and continuing the second week of the season. That regulation will remain for the 2011-12 hunting season, and in addition the board of commissioners took another step at this month's quarterly meeting designed to increase the herd by authorizing 29,000 antlerless licenses to be issued for WMU 4E.

PGC biologist Chris Rosenberry, who heads the agency deer and elk management programs, had recommended that the herd be stabilized in WMU 4E and that 35,000 antlerless licenses be allocated. In setting the antlerless allocation at 29,000 to increase the herd the BOC compromised with its management team.

In submitting its antlerless recommendations, the management team suggested that issuing 25,000 antlerless licenses was the target number to increase the herd, but the BOC approved 4,000 more than recommended. An allotment of 44,000 antlerless licenses was recommended if the goal was to decrease the herd.

Last year, 26,899 antlerless tags were purchased by hunters for WMU 4E, which also contains Northumberland County and a large portion of Columbia County. Hunters took 5,923 antlerless deer in 4E during the 2010-11 seasons, which is less than the 6,287 taken during the 2009-10 seasons.

WMU 4E is one of 11 that will have the 5-7 split in days of antlered only and concurrent antlered and antlerless hunting during the firearms season, which begins Monday, Nov. 28. Concurrent antlered and antlerless hunting in 4E opens Saturday, Dec. 2, and continues Monday-Saturday, Dec. 4-10.

Other WMUs affected by the 5-7 split are 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3B, 3C, 4B and 4D. A two-week concurrent, antlered and antlerless season will be held in WMUs 1A, 1B, 2B, 3A, 3D, 4A, 4C, 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D.

Hunters with DMAP antlerless deer permits may use them on the lands for which they were issued during any established deer season, including the 11 WMUs with the 5-7 split season. While the 11-11 split in WMUs having 12 days of concurrent antlered and antlerless deer hunting and those having a 5-7 split reduces the numbers of days to take an antlerless deer, input from hunters indicates support for the split.

Antlerless deer can still be taken during archery and October muzzleloader seasons in all WMUs, and flintlock and late-season archery hunters will have a one-day extension to their season, which opens Monday, Dec. 26, and now extends through Monday, Jan. 16. In addition, the BOC gave preliminary approval for a regulation that will allow the transfer of an antlerless deer tag to a youngster qualified to participate in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program.

In setting antlerless allocations, the BOC increased the allotment in WMU 2D from the proposed 55,000 to 60,000; in WMU 2F from 32,000 to 34,000; and 3D from 36,000 to 39,000. Allotments were reduced in WMU 3B from 48,000 to 40,000; WMU 4D from 44,000 to 37,000; and WMU 4E from 35,000 to 29,000.

Antlerless allotments for the remaining WMUs are: 1A 42,000; 1B 30,000; 2A 65,000; 2B 71,000; 2C 58,000; 2E 25,000; 2G 23,000; 3A 26,000; 3C 29,000; 4A 28,000; 4B 23,000; 4C 35,000; 5A 19,000; 5B 50,000; 5C 117,000; and 5D 22,000.

This year will also see the return of concurrent deer and bear hunting during the firearms deer season after last year's Saturday opening day of the firearms bear season produced the desired goal of attracting more Junior hunters than ever, but limiting the season to just three days, ending on the following Tuesday, resulted in less hunter success than was hoped. This year, the season has been expanded to four days, with the Saturday, Nov. 19, opener following the five-day statewide archery season – which opens Monday, Nov. 14 and ending Wednesday, Nov. 23.

Concurrent bear-deer hunting is open the first week of the firearms deer season from Monday-Saturday, Nov. 28-Dec. 3, in WMUs 3A and 3C and portions of 3B. Concurrent bear-deer hunting will be open Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 30-Dec. 3, in WMUs 3D, 4C, 4D, 4E, 5B and 5C.

Opportunities were also increased for small game and waterfowl hunters in Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas. Under the new regulation, groundhog and waterfowl hunting during established seasons is now legal in any of the five WPRAs – including the newly established area in Franklin County during the period in which other small game hunting is closed from the first Sunday in February through July 31.

In addition, a hunting season has been established for porcupines from September 1 through March 31, with a daily limit is six and a field possession limit of 12; hunting of starlings, English sparrows, opossums, skunks, porcupines, groundhogs and weasels during legal hunting hours can now be done during spring gobbler season; and the closing date of the late squirrel season has been extended from Feb. 4 to Feb. 25.