Changes proposed for hunting seasons
HARRISBURG — Hunters likely will have more time to hunt squirrels this fall, but they won't get to hunt on Christmas.
Those were among decisions made by Pennsylvania Game Commissioners on Tuesday at their quarterly meeting in Harrisburg.
The board gave preliminary approval to seasons and bag limits for the 2013-14 hunting year. Final approval must come when the board reconvenes in April.
But that's often a formality; the seasons adopted now typically get approved without changes in the spring.
If that holds true again, the state's youth squirrel hunting season will open Sept. 7 and run through Sept. 13. The general statewide squirrel season open to everyone will start Sept. 14 and go through Nov. 30.
Both of those seasons have opened a full month later — in mid-October — in the past.
Commissioner Ralph Martone of New Castle proposed the change. It's in line with how things are done in other states, he said; there's not another state in the Northeast other than Pennsylvania that waits beyond mid-September to allow squirrel hunting.
More importantly, it gives people who would introduce children to hunting through squirrel season more opportunity to do so, he said.
“It gives our mentoring adults an opportunity to spend quality time in the woods with those youngsters without having to worry about whether to go archery hunting or grouse hunting or whatever. They can just center on getting those youths started out right,” Martone said.
The pre- and post-Christmas squirrel seasons will be Dec. 16-24 and Dec. 26-Feb. 22.
There was a move to give hunters the one missing day — Christmas — for squirrels, grouse, rabbits and pheasants, but that didn't happen.
Some hunters welcomed the idea. On Sunday, the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs had voiced support for the idea, noting that all of the states around Pennsylvania allow hunting on the holiday and have for years without incident.
Game Commissioners rejected the idea for several reasons, including not wanting to force wildlife conservation officers to work on Christmas.
The board gave preliminary approval to a few other changes.
The fall turkey season in Western Pennsylvania's wildlife management unit 1B will be shortened by one week. It will run from Nov. 2-9 and Nov. 28-30, including Thanksgiving.
Mary Jo Casalena, the commission's turkey biologist, has recommended shortening the season there because populations have declined for three consecutive years.
Commissioners also made a few changes to the extended bear season in Northeastern Pennsylvania, flip-flopped the two- and three-week turkey seasons in a few areas where a hen survival study is ongoing and restricted hunting during the post-Christmas deer season usually held throughout only wildlife management unit 2B to Allegheny County.