Area bowhunters truly have the best of both worlds.
Those who primarily target rack bucks continue to prepare for the opening of Pennsylvania's statewide archery deer season, Saturday, Sept. 29. For those who also enjoy putting venison in the freezer, however, their opening day is a week away – Saturday, Sept. 15, when antlerless-only hunting is through Friday, Sept. 28, in Wildlife Management Unit 5C.
In addition, antlerless deer seasons will be open in WMUs 2B and 5D, with an antlerless licenses needed for each deer taken, and the antlerless season reopens in the three WMUs, Monday-Saturday, Nov. 12-Nov. 24. Bowhunters may take antlered and antlerless deer in the three WMUs during the late archery season, which opens Wednesday, Dec. 26, and concludes Saturday, Jan. 26.
In Pennsylvania, archery hunters may use a long, recurve, compound or crossbow, and vertical bows must have a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds; crossbows must have a minimum drawn weight of at least 125 pounds. Broadheads on either an arrow or a crossbow bolt must have an outside diameter or width of at least seven-eighths inches with at least two cutting edges on the same plane throughout the length of the cutting surface and not exceed three inches in length.
Although bowhunters are among the most dedicated, the Pennsylvania Game Commission urges those participating in the archery seasons to take only responsible shots at deer to ensure a quick, clean kill. For the average bowhunter, that translates to a shot of 20 yards or less at a deer broadside or quartering away.
Bowhunters should shoot at only deer that are within their maximum effective shooting range, which is the furthest distance from which a hunter can consistently place arrows or bolts into a pie pan-sized target. Hunters may use illuminated nocks for arrows and bolts to aid in tracking or locating the arrow or bolt after launched, however, transmitter-tracking arrows still are illegal, and it remains illegal to use dogs to track wounded deer.
Treestands and climbing devices that cause damage to trees are unlawful to use or occupy unless the user has written permission from the landowner. Treestands and or tree steps penetrating a tree's cambium layer cause damage, and it is unlawful to build or occupy tree-stands screwed or nailed to trees on State Game Lands, state forests or state parks.
PGC regulations limit the placement of portable treestands and blinds on SGLs from two weeks before the opening of the first big game season – which is the archery deer season to two weeks after the close of the last big game season – which is the late archery deer season within each respective WMU, excluding the spring gobbler season. Stands must be removed from SGL two weeks after the late archery deer season.
"Hunters need to remember that placing a treestand on State Game Lands does not reserve a hunting area," PGC executive director Carl Roe said. "The first person to arrive in a certain spot has the right to hunt that area."
Other safety tips from the PGC that bowhunters should consider before heading afield and while hunting include:
Make sure someone knows where one's hunting and when expected time to return home.
Always use a fall-restraint device preferably a full-body harness when hunting from a tree-stand. Wear the device from the moment you leave the ground until you return.
Get in good physical condition before the season starts.
Always carry a whistle to signal passersby in the event of an injury that limits mobility, a compass, matches or lighter and tinder and extra flashlight batteries and bulb.
Use a hoist rope to lift bows and backpacks into a treestand.
Always carry broadhead-tipped arrows in a protective quiver.
If using a mechanical release, always keep index fingers away from the trigger when drawing.
Practice with climbing treestands before the opening day of the season.
Never walk with a nocked, broadhead-tipped arrow or bolt.
Cocked crossbows should always be pointed in a safe direction and keep the thumb and fingers below the crossbow's string and barrel at all times.