Changes proposed for deer season, MYHP
Newly elected president Dave Putnam of the Pennsylvania Game Commission board of game commissioners listens to a question about the modifications to the Mentored Youth Hunting Program.
HARRISBURG - Proposals that would create what amounts to a 5-7 statewide split for the firearms deer season and drastically change the Mentored Youth Hunting Program highlighted this week's first quarterly meeting of the year by the Pennsylvania Game Commission board of commissioners at its Harrisburg headquarters to set seasons and bag limits for the 2015-16 hunting and trapping seasons.
Under the proposal for the firearms deer season, which opens Monday, Nov. 30, and ends Saturday, Dec. 12, only Special Regulations Areas Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5A, 5C and 5D would have concurrent antlered and antlerless hunting the full 12 days. In the remaining 18 WMUs, antlered-only hunting would be the first five days of the season and concurrent antlered and antlerless hunting would open Saturday, Dec. 4, and continue the final week.
Hunters with Deer Management Assistance Program antlerless deer permits may use the permits on the lands for which they were issued during any established deer season, including WMUs with the split season. DMAP permits also may be transferred to those in the MYHP.
When the agenda for the board meeting was released it contained a proposal to limit the age of those participating in the MYHP to youngsters between the ages of 9-11. A wave of protest from the Pennsylvania State Senate, sportsmen's organizations and individuals resulted in a revised proposal that removes the age restriction, but places a hardship on mentors that goes against the original concept of the program when it was initiated in 2006.
Under the revised proposal participants in the MYHP between the ages of 7-11 would be allowed to take an antlered deer or spring gobbler with their own tag. Those participating in the MYHP age 6 and younger will still be allowed to take an antlered deer or spring gobbler, but would have to use the tag of their mentor, which puts a hardship on those who mentor more than one youngster in that age category.
In voting to preliminarily approve the measure, the commissioners said it was because of their concerns over purported harvests by extremely young mentored youth they believe are unlawful harvests by their adult mentors. They claim the new proposal addresses that concern and continues to give parents the opportunity to introduce their children to hunting at ages they consider appropriate, but had no comment concerning those individuals who mentor more than one child in the age category.
Another proposed change effects WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, where the archery deer season has traditionally opened two weeks before the statewide archery season for antlerless deer hunting only. Under the new proposal, hunting of antlered and antlerless deer would be permitted in these WMUs from September 19 to November 28.
Retained are the antler restrictions that have been in place for adult and senior license holders since the 2011-12 seasons of "three-up" on one side, not counting a brow tine, provision for the western WMUs of 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and 2D, and the three points on one side in all other WMUs. Those exempt from these antler restrictions are mentored youth hunters, junior license holders, disabled hunters with a permit to use a vehicle as a blind and resident active duty military on leave.
All the proposals made by the board was approved by a 7-0 vote, as commissioner Ralph Martone, who was serving a six-month extension to his expired term, was removed the week before the meeting. Published reports by various sources indicate he was removed by the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett at the request of board members opposing the MYHP.
Final approval of all proposals and seasons and bag limits will be done at the board's next quarterly meeting, Thursday and Friday, April 9 and 10. Antlerless allocations will also be approved at that meeting.
Commissioner Dave Putnam, who served as the board's vice president, was elected president by a 7-0 vote. He represents Region 3, which is comprised of McKean, Potter, Elk, Cameron, Clinton, Jefferson, Clearfield and Centre counties.
Brian Hoover, who served as the board's secretary, was elected vice president by a 5-2 vote over Ron Weaner. Hoover represents Region 8, which is comprised of Schuylkill, Northampton, Lehigh, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Montgomery, Delaware and Philadelphia counties.
Tim Layton was elected secretary by a 7-0 vote. He represents Region 4, which is comprised of Cambria, Blair, Huntingdon, Somerset, Bedford and Fulton counties.
A complete list of the proposed 2015-16 hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits is available on the Web at www.pgc.state.pa.us.