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Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

Pennsylvania's deer hunters have seen a lot of changes in the past decade. More may yet come.

Pennsylvania Game Commissioners held a working group meeting in Harrisburg this past week to talk about seasons and bag limits for 2013-14. No decisions were made; it was a chance for commissioners and staff to float ideas and talk about what-ifs.

One idea centered on opening the firearms deer season — which traditionally starts the Monday after Thanksgiving — on a Saturday instead.

The commission moved opening day of bear season to a Saturday a few years ago. That was heresy to some initially but has since become very popular, said commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County.

With so much emphasis on recruiting and retaining hunters now, at a time when surveys reveal a lack of time is what most often keeps hunters out of the woods, could a Saturday opener for deer likewise be a good idea, he wondered?

“It might be something we want to talk about. I'm not sure we want to do it. But I think we want to discuss it,” Putnam said.

Commission president Ralph Martone of New Castle, a teacher by trade, said school districts under pressure to meet state standards are increasingly going away from giving students the Monday opener off. That's another reason why a Saturday opener might make sense, he said.

Any such change might come with tradeoffs, though, said commission executive director Carl Roe. The season might have to be shortened by a few days to account for the extra harvest likely to occur on a Saturday, he said.

Cal DuBrock, director of the bureau of wildlife management, could not say what impact a Saturday opener might have, but commissioners have asked him to investigate the idea and report back.

Meanwhile, Martone asked staff to investigate the ramifications of adding a week to the archery deer season.

That idea worries some. In the early 1990s, the archery kill represented about 5 percent of the total deer harvest. Now it's about 25 percent, according to commission figures. Giving archers more time — and allowing them to take more bucks in particular, given that archery season would extend into the rut — could turn off rifle hunters who may only get out one or two days a year, but who make up a large percentage of license buyers, said commissioner Ron Weaner of Adams County.

“I don't think disenfranchising them is the way to go,” Weaner said.

Martone, though, said archers aren't killing too many deer. They account for one-third of all licenses sold and are harvesting about one third of the deer. “I think that's fair,” he said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bfrye@tribweb.com or 724-838-5148.

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