HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits for 2008-09.
The public may offer comments on all proposed 2008-09 seasons and bag limits, as well as other Board actions, between now and the Board’s next meeting, April 21-22, at which time the Board will finalize seasons and bag limits for 2008-09.
Also, the Board will take action on setting antlerless deer license allocations for the 22 WMUs at its April meeting. Deer harvest estimates for the 2007-08 seasons will be available in mid-March.
Following are several articles on meeting highlights.
CHANGES PROPOSED FOR 2008-09 DEER SEASONS The Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a slate of deer seasons for the 2008-09 seasons, which retains nearly all of the opportunities provided in the past to address the goals of the agency’s deer management plan.
The only substantial change for the deer hunting seasons is a proposal to have a five-day, antlered deer only season in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 2D, 2G, 3C and 4B starting the Monday after Thanksgiving, followed immediately by seven days of concurrent, antlered and antlerless deer hunting. The proposed package retains the two-week (12-day) concurrent, antlered and antlerless season in the remaining 18 WMUs. The change to the four WMUs is to evaluate the impact of changed season length on hunter success rates for future use as a new management tool.
“The goals of the deer management plan have not changed,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “The proposed changes to these four WMUs will give us another ‘tool in the toolbox,’ as we move forward with our deer management plan.”
Roe noted that the four WMUs chosen were because: WMUs 2G and 4B have ongoing deer research in them; WMU 2D is an area where antler restrictions are set at four points on one side, and is where the agency previously had deer research conducted; and WMU 3C is an area where antler restrictions are set at three points on one side, and is an area of the state where no extensive deer research has been conducted.
“Antlerless deer harvest versus number of days of opportunity, or the overall season length, will be evaluated following this year of five days of antlered deer and seven days of concurrent seasons,” Roe said. “Also, we will conduct annual surveys of hunters to address other aspects of the program.
“In the future, stakeholders may be able to provide input by sharing whether they’d like more opportunity via time, such as two weeks or more, or more people involved through perhaps more tags and shorter seasons.”
Additionally, the Board specifically directed staff to prepare a four-year study to determine the impact and effectiveness of the proposed five-day antlered/seven-day concurrent season on the deer management plan before additional WMUs may be considered for this season configuration.
As part of the 2008-09 deer season frameworks, the Board proposed to continue to permit the use of crossbows statewide for hunting bear and elk and during any of the firearms deer seasons – including the regular firearms deer seasons, the early muzzleloader season and the late flintlock muzzleloader season – and in all deer seasons in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, which are the most urbanized areas in the state.
Statewide, hunters using crossbows during the early muzzleloader season or late flintlock season must have a muzzleloader stamp in addition to their general hunting license and appropriate WMU antlerless deer license. Late-season hunters with a muzzleloader stamp, but using a crossbow, are permitted to take an antlered deer or an antlerless deer anywhere in the state with their unused antlered deer tag, just like other late-season flintlock hunters.
In WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, hunters planning to use a crossbow during the archery seasons must purchase an archery stamp in addition to their general hunting license and appropriate WMU antlerless deer license.
Disabled hunters must obtain a permanent or temporary disabled hunter permit to use a crossbow during the statewide early or late archery seasons outside of WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D.
The Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) that addresses landowner deer management objectives within Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) remains in place.
“DMAP provides a tool to harvest antlerless deer on specific properties to lessen deer impacts for landowners and the habitat,” said Calvin W. DuBrock, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management director. Fees for DMAP permits are $10 for residents and $35 for nonresidents.
WMU BOUNDARIES PROPOSED FOR CHANGES
The Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a regulatory change that seeks to shift some of the boundaries of the present 22 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs).
In 2003, the agency first approved a uniform system of 22 WMUs to replace the system of multiple, species-specific management units. The primary objective of WMU system was to simplify regulations, and develop and implement management decisions on a system of more homogenous units based on physiography; land cover and use; human population density; and land ownership. Boundaries were defined using recognizable physical landscape features, such as rivers and highways, rather than political boundaries that are largely unmarked on the landscape.
“At the time of the approval of new units it was agreed to evaluate use of the units after five years,” said Roe. “The 2007-08 seasons marked the fifth year of using the system. Input on possible changes to WMUs was solicited from Game Commission headquarters and region staff. Wildlife population and harvest data also were analyzed. Recommended changes were relatively few.”
The following WMU map revisions are proposed:
1) the boundary between WMUs 2C and 2E near Ebensburg was not clear on the state highway map or on the ground and needed correction;
2) new highway construction around Lewistown has changed the location of Route 22, the boundary between 4B and 4D, requiring a map correction;
3) the boundary between WMUs 3B and 3C between Towanda and Tunkhannock is Route 6, which closely follows the Susquehanna River. Using the river as the boundary will reduce hunter access problems and property split problems and better-align WMU and township boundaries;
4) due to continuing increases in human populations in southeast Pennsylvania, the north/south border of WMU 5C around Reading and Allentown was shifted farther north, affecting boundaries with WMUs 5B, 4C and 3D; and
5) the east/west boundary between WMUs 5C and 5B were moved farther west to include more of Chester County and a portion of Lancaster County.
“These proposed changes to WMU boundaries will have minimal impact on wildlife databases,” Roe said.
The Board tabled a proposal to align the “Special Regulation Areas” boundaries – currently county boundaries – within the WMU system.
MENTORED YOUTH HUNTING PROGRAM TO CONTINUE FOR 2008-09 The Mentored Youth Hunting Program, first implemented by the Board of Game Commissioners in 2006, will continue for the 2008-09 seasons. The list of eligible game for those youth under the age of 12 participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program will remain squirrel, woodchuck (groundhog), spring gobbler and antlered deer.
Youths participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program are required to follow the same antler restrictions as a junior license holder, which is two or more points on one antler or one antler three or more inches in length. Mentored youth may only pursue antlered deer, and may only participate in seasons in which antlered deer are legal and must follow appropriate sporting arm restrictions.
The program also requires that both the mentor and the youth abide by any fluorescent orange regulations, and that the mentored youth must tag and report any antlered deer or wild turkey taken.
Under the program, a mentor is defined as a properly licensed individual at least 21 years of age, who serves as a guide to a mentored youth while engaged in hunting or related activities, such as scouting, learning firearm and hunter safety and wildlife identification. A mentored youth is defined as an unlicensed individual less than 12 years of age who is accompanied by a mentor while engaged in hunting or related activities.
The mentor to mentored youth ratio may not exceed one mentor to one youth, and the pair may possess only one sporting arm while hunting. While moving, the sporting arm must be carried by the mentor. When the pair reaches a stationary hunting location, the mentor may turn over possession of the sporting arm to the youth and must keep the youth within arm’s length at all times.
BOARD PROPOSES CONTINUED ARCHERY AND EXTENDED BEAR SEASONS The Board of Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to the traditional three-day statewide black bear season before Thanksgiving, extended bear seasons in certain portions of the state that is concurrent with the first week of the firearms deer season and a two-day archery bear season in nine Wildlife Management Units (WMUs).
While most bear seasons remain the same, extended hunting opportunities were added for WMUs 4C, 4D and 4E, and will run Dec. 3-6, Wednesday through Saturday, along with the concurrent firearms deer season in this unit. Also, the Board removed WMU 3D from this extended season.
Pennsylvania extended modern-day bear hunting started in 2002, when bear hunters were given the opportunity to fill their tags the first week of the firearms deer season in Carbon, Monroe and Pike counties. With the advent of the state’s 22 WMUs, the extended season was held in WMU 3D in 2003. In 2004, the number of WMUs open for the concurrent deer/bear season was expanded.
Bear licenses must be purchased prior to the opening of the firearms deer season, Dec. 1.
BOARD CLOSES SEPTEMBER ELK SEASON
The Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to Pennsylvania’s upcoming elk seasons, but dropped further September elk hunts beyond the previously-approved hunt set for Sept. 1-27, 2008, due to limited success and hunter satisfaction. Those hunters for the upcoming September elk hunt were selected as part of the public drawing held on Sept. 15, 2007.
In 2006, the agency held its first September elk season in an attempt to provide farmers suffering severe crop damage relief by allowing hunters an opportunity to harvest the animals. However, after two seasons, 20 hunters harvested only four elk due to the high proportion of private property and very limited hunter access to this property.
Despite extensions approved, hunters continued to record their dissatisfaction with the hunt, and farmers continued to endure damages.
The Board proposed the November 2008 elk hunt to be held Nov. 3-8. The Board approved issuing 45 elk licenses for the November season. Final determination regarding how many antlered and antlerless elk licenses, as well as the specific elk hunt zone allocations, will be made by the executive director at a later date. Applications will be accepted beginning in the spring, and the public drawing will be held in September.
Interested hunters can make application for the elk seasons through the mail, at Game Commission Harrisburg or region offices or by going to the agency’s Web page. All applications must be accompanied by a nonrefundable $10 application fee. Those selected for one of the limited licenses will need to purchase a general hunting license ($20 for residents and $101 for nonresidents), as well as the elk license, which costs $25 for residents and $250 for nonresidents.
Additionally, the Board gave preliminary approval to a technical change to refer to “elk hunt zones,” consistent with the agency’s elk management plan, rather than “elk management areas” or “elk management units.”
BOBCAT PERMIT GUARANTEE SET FOR PREFERENCE POINTS After eight bobcat seasons, the Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to several regulatory changes to add Wildlife Management Unit 4D to the list of WMUs in which bobcats can be taken by those hunters/trappers who are selected for a permit, to guarantee permits to those who have earned a certain number of preference points, and to allow nonresident furtakers to participate.
“After 30 years of protection and 15 years of intensive research, the Game Commission initially limited harvest opportunities by geographic area and restricted taking to resident furtakers,” said Roe. “As the season has expanded in scope and permits now exceed 1,000 annually, we are moving to expand this opportunity to more areas that can sustain limited bobcat harvests, to guarantee those who have continued to apply an opportunity to earn a bobcat permit and include more interested trappers from other states.”
Roe noted that the decision to add WMU 4D to the bobcat hunt/trap area is based on the increased number of incidental bobcat captures and bobcat sightings in this area.
Beginning in 2003, the Game Commission began awarding preference points to individuals who apply for and do not receive a bobcat harvest permit during a given year. This preference point system was designed to incrementally increase the probability of receiving a permit each year that an applicant is unsuccessful. Bobcat permits are awarded using a random computer drawing from an applicant database. The number of preference points is applied to the applicant’s name prior to the drawing. Under this system, the odds of being selected increase significantly as points are accrued, but new applicants always have a chance of being selected. Applicants who are selected and receive a permit are prohibited from applying the following year and their preference points are set back to zero.
“Because the selection process is random it is possible that, under the current system, a person can maintain maximum preference points and never be selected to receive a permit,” Roe said. “It is also possible – and this has occurred numerous times – that applicants may be selected to receive permits multiple times over the years, while others are never drawn. Some bobcat permit applicants see these situations as inequitable.
“We believe that the selection process can be modified to provide guaranteed permits to applicants with maximum preference points but, due to random events, fail to receive a permit. Models based on past trends in the applicant database suggest that we can provide this benefit without negating the chance of a new applicant receiving a permit or significantly reducing the odds of applicants with lesser preference point status. The designation of a maximum preference of six or seven points would result in between 100 and 350 permits guaranteed during a given year with the remaining permits allocated by random drawing. If approved by the Board at its April meeting, this change would take effect for the 2008 bobcat permit drawing.”
Roe noted that nonresident furtakers increasingly have expressed an interest in applying for the bobcat permit drawing.
“Nonresidents currently are afforded the opportunity to be permitted as only bobcat guides,” he said. “Nonresident furtakers make up less than one percent of licensed furtakers in Pennsylvania, and pay four times the resident price for their license. This proposed rulemaking would permit nonresident furtakers to submit an application for the bobcat permit drawing, beginning in 2008, and to receive a permit if drawn.”
The Board also approved technical changes to update the regulations to reflect the current operational tagging procedures used in the bobcat management program.
BOARD PROPOSES CHANGES TO EXPAND OTHER OPPORTUNITIES The Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a host of other seasons and bag limits designed to expand opportunities for hunters and trappers in 2008-09. Among the changes, the Board proposed to:
* Extend by one day the special season for junior pheasant hunters to include an additional Saturday. Adding this Saturday will provide additional hunting opportunity of released game farm birds in farmland habitats;
* Extend the shooting days for crows to 120 days. By starting the season on the Friday closest to July 1 and running it every Friday, Saturday and Sunday continuously through the first weekend in April, the agency will provide 120 hunting days for crows. By law seasons must be set to avoid the peak nesting season, which falls between April 7 and the end of May;
* Eliminate the previously closed season on ruffed grouse in the portion of State Game Land 176 in Centre County, which has been posted “RESEARCH AREA – NO GROUSE HUNTING,” and commonly referred to as the Barrens;
* Remove the protection afforded wild boars to allow their incidental taking during deer, bear and fall turkey seasons. On Dec. 27, 2007, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that wild boars are protected mammals under the Game and Wildlife Code. As a result, the agency must take regulatory action to remove protection from wild boars to allow incidental taking during the fall big game seasons.
For more details on these seasons, please see the table of proposed 2008-09 seasons and bag limits at the end of this news release.
HUNTERS REMINDED ABOUT PROCESS FOR SETTING WATERFOWL SEASONS The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to nearly all of the 2008-09 seasons and bag limits; however, there is one group of seasons that won’t be finalized until summer: waterfowl and migratory bird seasons.
In July, in concert with federal frameworks, the Game Commission will set seasons and bag limits for September resident Canada goose and webless migratory birds, such as doves, woodcock, snipe and moorhens.
In August, the Game Commission and waterfowl hunting organizations will host waterfowl organizations, individual sportsmen and the public to attend a briefing on the status of waterfowl populations and proposed preliminary federal frameworks for the 2007-08 hunting seasons.
In addition to reviewing frameworks established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for upcoming waterfowl and migratory bird seasons, Game Commission staff, along with conservation partners, will provide updates on current and planned research and management programs, as well as past hunting results.
Based on public comments received and gathered at the meeting, Game Commission staff will prepare and present recommended composite waterfowl and migratory bird seasons, bag limits and related criteria to the USFWS for final approval. All migratory bird hunting seasons and bag limits must conform to frameworks set by the USFWS. States select their hunting seasons within these established frameworks.
By mid-August, once the final selections are made, the Game Commission will print and distribute brochures outlining the seasons and bag limits for waterfowl and migratory bird seasons to U.S. Post Offices, where hunters may purchase their mandatory federal duck stamp. The brochure also will be posted on the Game Commission’s Web site along with a news release announcing the agency’s final selections by mid-August.
PROPOSED 2008-09 HUNTING SEASONS AND BAG LIMITS
SQUIRRELS, Red, Gray, Black and Fox (Combined): Special season for eligible junior hunters, with or without required license – Oct. 11-17 (6 daily, 12 in possession limit after first day).
SQUIRRELS, Red, Gray, Black and Fox (Combined): Fall Season – Oct. 18-Nov. 29; Late Seasons – Dec. 15-23 and Dec. 26-Feb. 7 (6 daily, 12 in possession limit after first day).
RUFFED GROUSE: Oct. 18-Nov. 29, Dec. 15-23 and Dec. 26-Feb. 7 (2 daily, 4 possession).
RABBIT (Cottontail): Oct. 25-Nov. 29, Dec. 15-23 and Dec. 26-Feb. 7 (4 daily, 8 possession).
PHEASANT: Special season for eligible junior hunters, with or without required license – Oct. 11-18 (2 daily, 4 in possession). Male pheasants only in WMUs 2A, 2B, 2C, 4C, 4E, 5A and 5B. Male and female pheasants may be taken in all other WMUs.
PHEASANT: Male only in WMUs 2A, 2B, 2C, 4C, 4E, 5A and 5B – Oct. 25-Nov. 29. Male and female may be taken in all other WMUs – Oct. 25-Nov. 29, Dec. 15-23 and Dec. 26-Feb. 7 (2 daily, 4 in possession).
BOBWHITE QUAIL: Oct. 25-Nov. 29 (4 daily, 8 possession). (Closed in WMUs 4A, 4B, 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D.)
HARES (SNOWSHOE RABBITS) OR VARYING HARES: Dec. 26-Jan. 1 (1 daily, 2 possession).
WOODCHUCKS (GROUNDHOGS): No closed season, except: Sundays; during the antlered and antlerless deer seasons; and until noon daily during the spring gobbler turkey season.
CROWS: July 4-April 5, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only. No limit.
STARLINGS AND ENGLISH SPARROWS: No closed season, except during the antlered and antlerless deer seasons and until noon daily during the spring gobbler turkey season. No limit.
WILD TURKEY (Male or Female): Wildlife Management Units 1A, 1B and 2A (Shotgun and bow and arrow) – Nov. 1-15; WMU 2B (Shotgun and bow and arrow) – Nov. 1-22; WMUs 2C, 2E, 2F, 4A and 4B- Nov. 1-15; WMUs 2D, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4C, 4D and 4E – Nov. 1-22; WMUs 5A and 5B – CLOSED TO FALL TURKEY HUNTING; and WMUs 5C and 5D (Shotgun and bow and arrow) – Nov. 1-7. (1 bird limit, either sex).
SPRING GOBBLER (Bearded bird only): Special season for eligible junior hunters, with required license – April 18, 2009. Only 1 spring gobbler may be taken during this hunt.
SPRING GOBBLER (Bearded bird only): April 25-May 25, 2009. Daily limit 1, season limit 2. (Second spring gobbler may only be taken by persons who possess a valid special wild turkey license.)
BLACK BEAR (WMUs 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3A, 4A, 4B and 4D) Bow and Arrow only: Nov. 19-20. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.
BLACK BEAR (Statewide): Nov. 24-26. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.
BLACK BEAR (WMUs 3C and Portions of WMUs 3B, 4E and 2G): Dec. 1-6. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year. All of WMU 3C. Also, in that portion of 3B, East of Rt. 14 from Troy to Canton, East of Rt. 154 from Canton to Rt. 220 at Laporte and East of Rt. 42 from Laporte to Rt. 118 and that portion of 4E, East of Rt. 42. Also, in that portion of WMUs 2G and 3B in Lycoming County that lies North of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River from the Rt. 405 bridge, West to the Rt. 220 bridge, East of Rt. 220 to Rt. 44 and East of Rt. 44 to Rt. 973, South of Rt. 973 to Rt. 87, West of Rt. 87 to Rt. 864, South of Rt. 864 to Rt. 220 and West of Rt. 220 to Rt. 405 and West of Rt. 405 to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.
BLACK BEAR (WMUs 4C, 4D and 4E): Dec. 3-6. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.
BLACK BEAR (Rockview State Correctional Institution): Dec. 1-6. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year. Prior approval must be obtained from prison to hunt.
ELK (Antlered or Antlerless): Nov. 3-8. Only one elk may be taken during the license year.
ELK (Antlered or Antlerless): Sept. 1-27, 2008. Only one elk may be taken during the license year.
DEER, ARCHERY (Antlerless Only) WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D: Sept. 20-Oct. 3, Nov. 17-29 and Dec. 15-23. One antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.
DEER, ARCHERY (Antlered and Antlerless) Statewide, including WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D: Oct. 4-Nov. 15 and Dec. 26-Jan. 10. One antlered deer per hunting license year. One antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.
DEER (Antlered and Antlerless) WMUs 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 2C, 2E, 2F, 3A, 3B, 3D, 4A, 4C, 4D, 4E, 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D: Dec. 1-13. One antlered deer per hunting license year. An antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.
DEER (Antlered Only) WMUs 2D, 2G, 3C and 4B: Dec. 1-5. One antlered deer per hunting license year.
DEER (Antlered and Antlerless) WMUs 2D, 2G, 3C and 4B: Dec. 6-13. One antlered deer per hunting license year. An antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.
DEER, ANTLERLESS (Statewide): Oct. 23-25. Junior and Senior License Holders, Disabled Person Permit (to use a vehicle) Holders, and Pennsylvania residents serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Services or in the U.S. Coast Guard only, with required antlerless license. Also included are persons who have reached or will reach their 65th birthday in the year of the application for a license and hold a valid adult license, or qualify for license and fee exemptions under section 2706. One antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.
DEER, ANTLERLESS MUZZLELOADER (Statewide): Oct. 18-25. An antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.
DEER, ANTLERED OR ANTLERLESS FLINTLOCK (Statewide): Dec. 26-Jan. 10. One antlered per hunting license year, or one antlerless deer and an additional antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.
DEER, Antlerless (WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D): Dec. 15-23 and Dec. 26-Jan. 24. An antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.
DEER, ANTLERLESS (Military Bases): Hunting permitted on days established by the U.S. Department of the Army at Letterkenny Army Depot, Franklin County; New Cumberland Army Depot, York County; and Fort Detrick, Raven Rock Site, Adams County. An antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.
WILD BOAR: May be taken while lawfully hunting deer, bear or fall turkey. Unlimited.
PROPOSED 2008-09 FURBEARER HUNTING SEASONS
COYOTES: No closed season. Unlimited. Outside of any deer or bear season, coyotes may be taken with a hunting license or a furtaker license, and without wearing orange. During any archery deer season, coyotes may be taken while lawfully hunting deer or with a furtaker license. During the regular firearms deer and any bear seasons, coyotes may be taken while lawfully hunting deer or bear, or with a furtaker license while wearing 250 square inches of fluorescent orange. During the spring gobbler season, may be taken by those with a valid tag and meet fluorescent orange and shot size requirements.
RACCOON & FOXES: Oct. 25-Feb. 21, unlimited.
OPOSSUM, SKUNKS & WEASELS: No closed season, except Sundays and prior to noon during the spring gobbler season. No limits.
BOBCAT (WMUs 2A, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D and 4D): Oct. 25-Feb. 21. One per permit. (Bobcats may only be taken by furtakers in possession of a Bobcat Hunting-Trapping permit.)
PROPOSED 2008-09 TRAPPING SEASONS
MINK & MUSKRAT: Nov. 22-Jan. 11. Unlimited.
COYOTE, FOXES, OPOSSUM, RACCOON, SKUNKS, WEASELS: Oct. 26-Feb. 22. No limit.
COYOTE & FOXES (Statewide) Cable Restraints: Jan. 1-Feb. 22. No limit. Participants must pass cable restraint certification course.
BEAVER (Statewide): Dec. 26-March 31 (Limits vary depending on WMU).
BOBCAT (WMUs 2A, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D and 4D): Oct. 26-Feb. 22. One per permit. (Bobcats may only be taken by furtakers in possession of a Bobcat Hunting-Trapping permit.)
PROPOSED 2008-09 FALCONRY SEASONS
SQUIRRELS (combined), QUAIL, RUFFED GROUSE, COTTONTAIL RABBITS, SNOWSHOE OR VARYING HARE, RINGNECK PHEASANT (Male or Female combined): Sept. 1-March 31. Daily and Field Possession limits vary. (Migratory game bird seasons and bag limits for falconers will be set in accordance with federal regulations in August.)
No open season on other wild birds or mammals. Waterfowl and Migratory Game Bird seasons will be established in accordance with Federal Regulations this summer.