Extended deer seasons set for 2014
Don't despair yet.
If you haven't filled your freezer with venison, there's still time to change that. Several late deer seasons are on the horizon.
A rules change will impact where and how you can hunt, though.
In years past, there was an “extended regular firearms season” in wildlife management units 2B, which surrounds Pittsburgh, and 5C and 5D in southeast Pennsylvania. Hunters could chase deer in those places for a month starting the day after Christmas, using whatever firearms were legal during the regular deer season.
This season things are different.
There is again an extended regular firearms season, and it runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 25. But it applies to specific counties rather than management units. It's open only in Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.
The change means all of Allegheny County is open to shotgun-toting hunters during the extended season. That includes the small portion of the county within management unit 2A that was never a part of the extended season before.
The portions of Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties that make up the outside edges of management unit 2B, meanwhile — which were a part of the extended season before — are not included in it any more.
Not exactly, anyway.
It will still be legal to hunt deer in those areas from Dec. 26 to Jan. 25. But the season there is “flintlock-only” rather than an “extended regular firearms,” meaning hunters will have to leave their rifles and shotguns at home.
That's still more time than hunters elsewhere get — the statewide flintlock season runs only from Dec. 26 to Jan. 11 — but modern firearms are off limits in 2B.
The seasons are outlined on page 11 of this year's hunting digest. But if you have to read the rules more than once, don't feel bad.
Tom Fazi, information and education supervisor in the Pennsylvania Game Commission's southwest region office in Bolivar, said drafting a news release explaining the changes wasn't easy.
“This has gone through, man, I don't know how many revisions, just because it's so hard to put into words,” Fazi said.
The reason for the changes is simple: The commission wanted to eliminate hunting with rifles and shotguns on the edges of 2B after Christmas.
There are two reasons for that, said Bob Schlemmer of Export, the commission board president. One is biological, the other social.
On the science side, the late season was designed from the beginning to use hunters to remove excess deer from urban and suburban areas. But a disproportionate number of hunters were spending their time on the rural edges of the unit rather than in Allegheny County where the greatest need for control is, he said.
This might force them into those problem areas, he said.
On the social side, landowners outside Allegheny County were complaining about increasingly being inundated with hunters, including a large influx from outside the area drawn by the abundance of antlerless deer tags and weeks to use them, Schlemmer said.
“A lot of farmers were threatening to close their lands off to hunting altogether if we didn't do something,” Schlemmer said. “It got to be a bit much.”
At least a few local hunters say they're happy with the change.
Jeff Reiss of North Versailles said that while the intent of the late season is good, hunters haven't been hitting the real troublesome spots, to the detriment of populations elsewhere in unit 2B.
“The season allowing rifles has put too much stress on the herd overall,” Reiss said. “Too many hunters in areas that are open — read accessible — have brought the herd well below carrying capacity.”
Jeff Wonderling of Export agreed and said he's hoping the change will allow the deer population to increase a bit.
“Because of this decrease I am for the change. I am hoping it will save a few deer,” he said.
The commission's southwest region office has been getting calls about the changes, Fazi said. But he's afraid many people aren't aware of them yet.
The commission is trying to address that. But as always, hunters need to be responsible for knowing the rules, Fazi said.
“We have to do our due diligence. We don't want to make outlaws out of honest people. We want to be able to say we did our best to make people aware of the new rules,” he said. “But this change was approved back in April, and it's printed in the digest. We're going to enforce it.”