Highlights from the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s quarterly meeting on Tuesday (motions will be up for final approval at April meeting):
- Land purchases add more than 16,000 to game lands system: The largest tract totaled nearly 13,000 acres in Elk County for $12.2 million. In the northeast, a 175-acre tract was purchased in Athens and Smithfield townships in Bradford County. About half of the property is comprised of mixed hardwoods, with the remainder in grassland and reverting fields. Some sections contain various evergreens originally planted to sell as Christmas trees.
- Split firearms deer seasons receive preliminary approval: The board adopted a slate of deer seasons for 2014-15 that retains the split, five-day antlered deer season (Dec. 1-5) and seven-day concurrent season (Dec. 6-13) in 12 Wildlife Management Units. The list includes (WMUs) 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3B, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E. The package also retains the two-week (Dec. 1-13) concurrent, antlered and antlerless deer season in WMUs 1A, 1B, 2B, 3A, 3D, 4A, 4C, 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D.
Hunters with Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) antlerless deer permits may use the permits on the lands for which they were issued during any established deer season, and will continue to be permitted to harvest antlerless deer from Dec. 1-13 in WMUs 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3B, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E. Fees for DMAP permits are $10.70 for residents and $35.70 for nonresidents.
The board retained antler restrictions in place for adult and senior license holders since the 2011-12 seasons. It remains the “three-up” on one side, not counting a brow tine, provision for the western Wildlife Management Units of 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and 2D, and the three points on one side in all other WMUs.
- Bear season expanded: WMUs 2C and 4B each would be open to bear hunting for four days in deer season, beginning the first Wednesday of the 2014 statewide general deer season, Dec. 3.
Game Commission staff had recommended the additions based on increases in the bear populations within those WMUs.
WMU 2C has had a slightly increasing bear population trend. Highway mortalities of bears have been slowly increasing in the area, and there’s been a noticeable increase in human-bear conflicts there.
WMU 4B also has had an increasing trend of human-bear conflicts, and several incidents in recent years involving home entry or injury to pets and people. Highway mortality of bears also has increased there, as has the bear harvest, which has increased by about 20 percent annually since 2003.
The Board retained expanded bear seasons in the state’s most urban Wildlife Management Units – WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D – and will continue to allow the harvest of black bears with a bear license during all deer seasons from September through early December in these WMUs.
The extended bear season dates for 2014 are:
- Sept. 20-Nov. 15 in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, for archery only
- Oct. 4-Nov. 15 in WMU 5B, for archery only
- Oct. 18-25 in WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D, for muzzleloaders only
- Oct. 23-25 and Dec. 1-13 in WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D, using any legal sporting arm for juniors and seniors, disabled person permit holders to use a vehicle as a blind and resident active duty in armed services
The statewide five-day archery bear season is Nov. 17-21. The four-day statewide bear season is slated to open Saturday, Nov. 22, and then continues Nov. 24-26.
Extended bear seasons have been proposed as follows:
- Dec. 3-6 in WMUs 2C, 4B, 4C, 4D and 4E
- Dec. 1-6 in WMUs 3A, 3B, 3C and 3D
- Dec. 1-13 in WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D.
- Changes to fall turkey season: Decreasing populations in WMUs 3A, 3B and 3C prompted the preliminary adoption of a two-week fall turkey season in those WMUs. Previously, there had been a three-week season there.
The three-day Thanksgiving season segment would continue in WMUs 3A, 3B and 3C despite the one-week decrease in the earlier segment.
Also, 2014 marks the final year of the hen harvest rate and survival rate study. So those WMUs in the study area will continue with the season lengths implemented last year.
And the board also proposed retaining a three-day fall turkey season in WMU 5A, but shifting it from midweek to a Thursday-through-Saturday framework.
The fall season dates for 2014: WMU 1B, Nov. 1-8 and Nov. 27-29; WMU 2B (shotgun and bow only), Nov. 1-21, and Nov. 27-29; WMUs 1A, 2A, 2D, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B and 3C, Nov. 1-15, and Nov. 27-29; WMUs 2C, 2E, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D and 4E, Nov. 1-21, and Nov. 27-29; and WMU 5A, Nov. 6-8. WMUs 5B, 5C and 5D will remain closed for the fall seasons.
For the 2015 spring gobbler season, which is proposed to run from May 2-30, the board continued the change in legal hunting hours to reflect the following: from May 2-16, legal shooting hours will be one-half hour before sunrise until noon timeframe; and from May 18-30, hunters may hunt all day, from one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset.
The board proposed holding the one-day Spring Gobbler Youth Hunt on April 25, 2015, which will run from one-half hour before sunrise until noon. All junior license holders and Mentored Youth Hunting Program permit holders can participate in this special one-day hunt, as well as the other spring season dates.
- Permission granted to trap 300 wild pheasants in Montana: The Game Commission has received permission from a Native American tribe in Montana to trap 300 wild birds and transfer them to Pennsylvania for release on Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas.
Commissioners said Tuesday, following the board’s meeting, that they had learned the news late the night before, and details about when a trapping attempt would commence and where any transferred pheasants would be released remained to be worked out.
- Mentored adult program a go: Citing a goal of adding to the ranks of hunters, the board gave preliminary approval to mentor-based program for first-time hunters 18 years old and older.
Adults obtaining a permit through the program would be able to take part in hunting activities without first needing to take the basic Hunter-Trapper Education course.
This would be a limited-term opportunity available to adults. Under the program, a mentored adult could purchase a permit for no more than three consecutive license years, at the end of which he or she would have to take a basic Hunter-Trapper Education course and purchase an adult hunting license.
There wouldn’t be much of a cost break between what’s expected to be the $19.70 resident mentored adult permit and the $20.70 adult general hunting license. Nonresident mentored adults would pay an expected $100.70 for their permit. There would be many more hunting opportunities available with the purchase of a general hunting license, too.
Mentored adults would be able to hunt only squirrels, ruffed grouse, rabbits, pheasants, bobwhite quail, hares, porcupines, woodchucks, crows, coyotes, antlerless deer and wild turkeys. Other species may not be hunted or harvested by mentored adults.
Mentored adults would need to hunt within eyesight of their adult mentor, and at a proximity close enough for verbal instruction and guidance to be easily understood. The adult mentor would need to transfer a tag to the mentored adult for any big-game harvest.
- Tom Venesky