HARRISBURG – When the Pennsylvania Game Commission board of game commissioners gave preliminary approval to hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits for 2012-13 at January's first quarterly meeting of the year, the recent trend of finding ways to increase hunting opportunities for both adult and youth hunters continued.

As always, the PGC welcomes public input on any of the proposals by regular mail or email, with both addresses available on website at www.pgc.state.pa.us [1]. In addition, public comments will be heard by the commissioners during its next quarterly meeting, Monday, April 23, with final seasons and bag limits and antlerless permits announced during the Tuesday, April 24, session.

Again this year steps have been proposed to expand the Mentored Youth Hunting Program by allowing licensed adult hunters to transfer their tag to take a fall turkey. This year, for the first time, adult hunters were allowed to transfer an antlerless tag to a MYH.

Other changes include expanded bear hunting opportunities in urban/suburban wildlife management units during the archery deer and antlerless muzzleloader seasons, additional small game season dates prior to Christmas; the addition of WMU 4C for bobcat hunting and trapping, the addition of WMUs 2G and 4D for fisher trapping, various changes to the beaver trapping seasons to reduce bag limits in WMUs 3A and 3D and to increase bag limits in WMU 5D to address nuisance complaints

Once again preliminary approval was given to a slate of deer seasons for 2012-13 that retains the split, five-day antlered deer season Monday-Saturday, Nov. 26-30, and seven-day concurrent season Saturday-Saturday, Dec. 1-8, in 11 WMU. Those WMUs are 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3B, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E, with the two-week Monday-Saturday, Nov. 26-Dec. 8, concurrent antlered and antlerless season 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 and will continue to be permitted to take antlerless deer from November 26-December 8 in WMUs 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3B, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E. Fees for DMAP permits are $10 for residents and $35 for non-residents.

Additionally, the Board also gave preliminary approval to retain the use of crossbows in the archery deer seasons. This was done by removing the sunset date inserted in the regulations when crossbows were first permitted to be used in the archery deer seasons.

Retained were antler restrictions enacted for the 2011-12 seasons of the "three-up" on one side, no counting a brow tine, provision for the western WMU of 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and 2D. Three points on one side is in effect for all other WMUs.

Preliminary approval was given to retain four Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas for the 2012-13 seasons, while closing the Pike Run WPRA in southwestern Pennsylvania. This program is part of the PGC Ring-necked Pheasant Management Plan, which seeks to restore self-sustaining and huntable populations of wild pheasants in suitable habitats and specifically calls for the creation of WPRAs. Wild-trapped pheasants are released into these areas with a goal of achieving a density of 10 hen pheasants per square mile.

"Our Pike Run WPRA in southwestern Pennsylvania has concluded and habitat patch analysis shows that Pike Run meets only one of five targets in the pheasant habitat model," PGC executive director Carl Roe said. "Pheasant densities are at one hen per square mile, which is far short of the 10 hens per square mile objective.

"In light of the area's habitat characteristics and low pheasant densities, and in keeping with the pheasant management plan, Wildlife Management Unit 2A, which includes the previously designated Pike Run WPRA, is to be opened to hunting male pheasants and stocking of game farm pheasants is to be reinstated beginning with the 2012-13 season. Working with major partners, such as Pheasants Forever, the California University of Pennsylvania and local landowners, we already have a jump start on creating WPRAs.

"These groups have invested in creating the necessary pheasant habitat in these areas of the state, and the Game Commission will continue to raise and release pheasants on public lands with suitable pheasant habitat each fall. And, with the additional revenues made available through Marcellus shale well leases on State Game Lands, we will increase our pheasant production level to 200,000 birds for the upcoming season."

For the 2012-13 seasons, the designated WPRAs will be defined as the Somerset WPRA in that portion of Somerset County in WMU 2C; the Central Susquehanna WPRA in portions of WMU 4E in Northumberland, Montour, Columbia and Lycoming counties; the Hegins-Gratz Valley WPRA in that portion of WMU 4E in Schuylkill and Dauphin counties; and the Franklin County WPRA in that portion of WMUs 4A and 5A in Franklin County.

Under the WPRA program, small game hunting is prohibited in the designated areas, as well as the release of any artificially propagated pheasants, including those raised by the PGC.

Also, to limit disturbances to nesting hen pheasants, dog training of any manner and small game hunting is prohibited in WPRAs from the first Sunday in February through July 31 each year, however, preliminary steps were taken to allow for crow hunting within WPRAs, which would be added to the exceptions that allow for groundhog and waterfowl hunting within WPRAs, and opened WMU 2B to the hunting of male and female pheasants.