For everyone who enjoys the song of the beagles and the chatter of squirrels, there is something special about the late season for hunting small game.
Perhaps it's the chance of hunting in a blanket of fresh snow, or the opportunity to hunt with family members and friends that makes the second season so appealing. Regardless of the reason, the season arrives Monday for – in addition to rabbit and squirrel snowshoe hare, ruffed grouse and – in specific wildlife management units – pheasant.
Monday also marks the opening the flintlock muzzleloader and late-archery deer seasons. In addition, winter's mixed bag also includes coyote, fisher, bobcat, beaver and other furbearers, crows, doves and waterfowl.
Small game seasons are: squirrel, December 26-Febuary 25; ruffed grouse, December 26-January 28; rabbit, December 26-Febuary 25; and snowshoe hare, December 26-31. Both rooster and hen pheasants are open December 26-Febuary 4 in WMUs 1A, 1B, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4D, 5C and 5D.
Flintlock and late archery is open statewide December 26-January 16. In WMUs 2B, 5C or 5D hunters with an antlerless deer licenses may use any legal sporting arm from December 26-January 28. Flintlock hunters may take an antlerless deer with a WMU license, DMAP permit or a general hunting license deer harvest tag, and during the late season, antlered deer may be taken only by bowhunters and flintlock hunters who possess an unused general hunting license deer harvest tag.
Hunters using archery or muzzleloader licenses, and hunting with those special sporting arms, are not required to wear fluorescent orange, but are encouraged to do so, especially when hunting in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, where an antlerless season for limited-range firearms users will also be in progress. Hunters are advised to refer to the Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations for firearms restrictions in special regulations areas, and those using conventional firearms in those WMUs must wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange.
Furbearer hunting seasons continuing through the winter months include: red and gray foxes, until February 18, including Sundays; raccoons, until February 18; and bobcats, in designated WMUs, from January 17-February 7.
Furbearer trapping seasons are: beaver, December 26-March 31, with bag limits depending on the WMU as outlined on page 74 of the 2011-12 Digest; mink and muskrats, until January 8; raccoons, skunks, opossums, foxes, coyotes and weasels, until February 19; and bobcats until January 8.
Dove hunters also will have late season opportunities when dove season runs December 26-January 4. Hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset, and the daily limit is 15 birds.
Waterfowl hunters have plenty of hunting opportunities to pursue from December into April. Hunters may take Canada geese and white-fronted geese during the following upcoming seasons: Atlantic Population Zone, December 17-January 25; Southern James Bay Canada Goose Hunting Zone, December 12-January 25; and Resident Canada Goose Zone, from December 20-February 25. Snow goose season is open and runs until April 27; special permit required in the Atlantic and Southern James Bay Zones from January 26-April 27; and from February 27-April 27 in the Regular Population Goose Zone.
Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers may be hunted in the Lake Erie and North zones until January 4; and in the South Zone through January 14.
For details on waterfowl bag limits in each of the zones, please consult the Pennsylvania 2011-12 Guide to Migratory Game Bird Hunting, which is available on the Pennsylvania Game Commission website at www.pgc.state.pa.us  by clicking on the "2011-12 Migratory Game Bird Brochure" icon in the center of the homepage.