HARRISBURG – Those who do their deer hunting in southeastern Pennsylvania in Wildlife Management Units 5C and 5D on their own land or other private land enrolled in the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Agricultural Damage Depredation Program, commonly called the "Red Tag" program, may continue using bait through final approval to a regulatory change for Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.

This action, and several others to increase hunting opportunities, highlighted Tuesday's action by the PGC board of game commissioners at its quarterly meeting to adopt seasons and bag limits for the upcoming license year of 2012-13, which begins Sunday, July 1. In addition, also approved were allocations for antlerless deer and elk licenses.

"This new regulation allows for the focused use of bait on those farms most in need of deer control assistance through their enrollment in the 'Red Tag' program," PGC executive director Carl Roe said. "Presently, farmers applying to enroll in the "Red Tag" program need to include in their application justification for the need to use bait.

"What this regulatory change does is allow hunters on these properties to use bait during any legal deer season in addition to the "Red Tag" seasons for antlerless deer, which are from February 1 to May 15, and July 1 to September 28. Listings of farms enrolled in the "Red Tag" program are maintained by the respective region offices, as those landowners enrolled in the program change from year to year."

Expanded bear hunting opportunities were created in WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D as a means of reducing bear-human conflicts in these urbanized areas of southwestern and southeastern Pennsylvania. Licensed bear hunters will be able to take a bear during all deer seasons from mid-September through early-December, as well as during statewide bear seasons. Bear hunters will be able to participate in an archery season in from September 15-28 in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D; from September 29-November 10 in WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D; a muzzleloader bear season from October 13-20 in WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D; and a firearms bear season from November 26-December 8 in WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D.

"Pennsylvania's black bear population is larger and more widely distributed than ever, and bear-human incidents are becoming commonplace, especially in more developed areas," Roe said. "Continued expansion of residential development into areas occupied by black bears has resulted in more frequent sightings and encounters between people and bears.

"In WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D, all with relatively high human population densities, there currently are low bear densities. As part of the Game Commission's bear management plan, the agency wants to continue to have a minimum number of bears in these areas, and the agency wants hunters to have an opportunity to play an important role in bear population management in these urban/suburban areas."

Also retained is the statewide archery bear season, four-day general firearms bear season and extended seasons in all or portions of certain WMUs. November 12-16 is the statewide five-day archery bear season; November 17-19 is the four-day statewide bear season; November 28-December 1 is the concurrent bear/deer season in WMUs 3D, 4C, 4D and 4E; and November 26-December 1 is the concurrent bear/deer season in WMUs 3A and 3C and in portions of WMUs 2G and 3B.

In keeping with its recent practice, the board expanded it Mentored Youth Hunting Program to include fall turkey. This year, a licensed adult hunter may transfer their fall turkey tag to a participant in the MYHP for those younger than 12 years of age and ineligible to take the hunter-trapper education course and purchase a junior license.

Little change was made by the board in giving final approval to deer seasons for 2012-13 that retains the split, five-day antlered deer season from November 26-30 and seven-day concurrent season from December 1-8 in the following 11 WMUs: 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3B, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E – other than for those holding DMAP permits. A two-week concurrent antlered and antlerless season from November 26-December 8 remains in WMUs 1A, 1B, 2B, 3A, 3D, 4A, 4C, 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D.

As part of the statewide archery deer season, which opens September 29, the board extended the closing day by one day to include Monday, Nov. 12, which is Veterans Day. Use of crossbows in all archery season received final approval.

When hunting licenses go on sale in mid-June, applications for one of 65 elk licenses comprised of 19 antlered and 46 antlerless will begin. In addition, this year's Conservation Elk Tag was issued to Safari Club International for auction at its banquet.

Antlerless deer license allocations by WMUs, with 2011-12 allocations in parentheses, are: 1A 42,000 (42,000); 1B 33,000 (30,000); 2A 59,000 (65,000; 2B 67,000 (71,000); 2C 50,000 (58,000); 2D 62,000 (60,000); 2E 21,000 (25,000); 2F 27,000 (34,000); 2G 33,000 (23,000); 3A 26,000 (26,000); 3B 40,000 (40,000); 3C 35,000 (29,000); 3D 39,000 (39,000); 4A 29,000 (28,000); 4B 26,000 (23,000); 4C 35,000 (35,000); 4D 36,000 (37,000); 4E 28,000 (29,000); 5A 19,000 (19,000); 5B 51,000 (50,000); 5C 111,000 (117,000); 5D 19,000 (22,000).