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Pennsylvania Game commissioners reject earlier squirrel opener

| Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, 10:36 p.m.

There will be no extra time for hunters to pursue squirrels this fall.

Fear of accidents that never occur and population stresses never seen apparently are the reasons why.

When Pennsylvania Game Commissioners recently met in Harrisburg to discuss seasons and bag limits for the 2014-15 hunting season, the package before them called for a youth squirrel season that would run from Oct. 11 to 17 and an opening day for everyone else of Oct. 18. Those got preliminary approval. A vote on final approval is set for the board's next meeting in April.

Commissioner Ralph Martone of New Castle proposed a change, however. He suggested opening squirrel season statewide for everyone on Sept. 13. That would bring Pennsylvania into line with other states, he noted.

This past year, Ohio and New York opened their squirrel hunting seasons on Sept. 1, Maryland its on Sept. 7, Delaware and West Virginia theirs Sept. 14 and New Jersey its Sept. 28.

An earlier opener would give people more opportunity to chase a species that's “underutilized,” Martone said.

Children in particular might benefit from the extra time, he said, when few other seasons are open.

“This is one of those opportunities where we can extend the calendar and offer that opportunity,” he said, noting that commissioners had received letters of support for the idea from the public.

The board rejected the idea by 6-2 vote, with only commissioner Charles Fox of Bradford County joining Martone.

A couple of commissioners who voted against the idea said they did so for safety reasons, worried about the possibility of squirrel hunters shooting camo-clad archers at a time when the leaves are still on the trees.

Brian Hoover of Delaware County, said that's “a significant enough safety issue at this time” for him to reject the idea.

Statistics provided by the commission's hunter safety division show there has not been a case of a squirrel hunter shooting anyone between at least 2003 and 2012. Spokesmen from Ohio, New York, Maryland and West Virginia said last summer they never have had a squirrel hunter shoot an archer, so far as anyone knows.

Still, commissioner Jay Delaney of Luzerne County said he was worried about safety, too, as well as with the possibility that hunters might shoot nursing squirrels.

Commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County said that's not a real worry because the timing of the season “doesn't make any difference biologically,” even as he voted against a September opener.

“It's just a social issue,” he said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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