Ready or not, the first of Pennsylvania's statewide firearms deer seasons is just one week away.
This year's early antlerless muzzleloader season opens Saturday, Oct. 13, and continues through Saturday, Oct. 20. In addition to the appropriate hunting license, a muzzleloader stamp, a wildlife management unit-specific antlerless permit or a Deer Management Assistance Program permit is needed to take an antlerless deer, and those participating in the archery deer season may also carry a bow to take a buck if the opportunity presents itself.
In addition to the overlapping of the antlerless muzzleloader and archery seasons, the special antlerless firearms season for junior, senior, active duty military and certain disabled hunters is Oct. 18-20. Also, for bowhunters with a bear license, the season is open in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D through Saturday, Nov. 10, and is open during the antlerless muzzleloader and special firearms seasons.
According to PGC executive director Carl Roe, the overlapping seasons has helped the agency with its deer-management goals and have been well received by hunters. In particular, the early antlerless seasons provide hunters more ways to fit deer hunting into their schedules and offer a more relaxing hunt to those who prefer warmer weather and fewer hunters in the woods.
"Although the October antlerless seasons increase hunting opportunities, their harvests still are controlled by antlerless deer license allocations, which are set to remove a pre-determined number of antlerless deer from a wildlife management unit," Roe said. "As has been the case in recent years, hunters heading afield for the October firearms seasons likely will find that deer numbers vary by locality."
All types of muzzleloader rifles .44 caliber or larger - from flintlock to traditional percussion to modern in-line ignitions - are legal during the antlerless season. Muzzleloaders can be equipped with scopes, peep-sights and other lawful sighting devices - including fiber-optic sights - during the hunt.
An added attraction is that a recent change in state law and PGC regulations makes these two antlerless deer seasons open to participants of the Mentored Youth Hunting Program, which was created for those under the age of 12. Mentored youth must obtain a MYHP permit, which are available at licensing agents at the cost of $2.70) for the current year, and they may receive only one antlerless deer license by transfer during a license year. Adult mentors may transfer more than one antlerless deer license, but they must be to different mentored youth, and the transfer is valid only if done in the WMU for which the antlerless deer license was issued.
A proposed change in regulations to allow for the transfer of one DMAP antlerless deer permit to a mentored youth will not take effect until the 2013-14 seasons, as the proposal still requires final adoption by the board of game commissioners. For antlered deer, the mentored youth must use the harvest tag that comes with the MYHP permit.
Hunters are advised that they may take only antlerless deer in the early muzzleloader and special firearms seasons, and that they may hunt only in the WMU or DMAP areas for which they have obtained antlerless deer licenses. Muzzleloader and special firearms season hunters are reminded that when multiple harvests of deer per day are permitted, only one deer at a time may be taken.
Before attempting to take an additional deer, the first deer must be lawfully tagged in Special Regulations Area counties of Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia, hunters may shoot multiple deer before tagging. Deer must be tagged before the carcass is moved, and the tag must be attached to the ear and remain attached until the deer is processed for consumption or prepared for mounting.
Any hunter who by accident or mistake kills an illegal deer is required to deliver the field-dressed carcass within 24 hours of the kill to any PGC officer in the county where the deer was killed. A written statement also must be provided to the officer explaining when, where and how the accident or mistake occurred, and the deer must be tagged with the appropriate deer harvest tag.
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.