Saturday start to 2019 deer hunting season might not be permanent
Much like the split vote to allow deer hunting to start the Saturday after Thanksgiving, differences of public opinion has the Pennsylvania Game Commission already agreeing to re-examine the controversial issue after this year.
After 55 years of opening the Monday after Thanksgiving, the commission voted 5-3 on April 8 to move up the start of the firearms deer hunting season by two days this year, starting it on Nov. 30. On Tuesday, the commission said it will see how things go in November before deciding if the move is permanent.
“The commissioners will be looking to see if there’s evidence the Saturday opener increased hunting license sales and hunter success, and looking to gauge the opinions of hunters who will have taken part in the state’s first Saturday opener in decades,” game commission Chairman Tim Layton said in a statement.
Members of the state game commission met last week with state House of Representatives Game and Fisheries Committee Majority Chairman Keith Gillespie, a York Republican, and Minority Chairman Bill Kortz, an Allegheny County Democrat, to discuss the earlier opening date.
“Since 1963, Pennsylvania’s firearms deer season consistently has opened the Monday after Thanksgiving, and hunters clearly were split in their support of the change to a Saturday opener. Some who have been unable to hunt on opening day due to work or school commitments strongly supported the change,” Tuesday’s release from the game commission stated. “Some who travel considerable distances to their hunting spots, and now must do so earlier in the holiday weekend, strongly opposed it.”
Following this year’s change, the commission “will be looking very closely at the potential benefits and drawbacks of a Saturday opener,” Layton said.
When an opening day for the 2020 firearms deer season is selected, Layton said the commission intends to take all of the findings into consideration to pick a date that provides the most benefit.
“Acting in the interest of the state’s hunters and the future of hunting in Pennsylvania always are important components to decisions by the Board of Game Commissioners,” Layton said. “The board gave these factors careful consideration before voting to move the opening day of the firearms deer season to Saturday, and in the coming year, we’ll be drilling even deeper to make sure we understand what the majority of hunters want.”
Travis Lau, spokesman for the game commission, said moving the first day “has been a very divisive issue.” Proponents see it as an opportunity to increase participation in hunting and allow some people to participate who couldn’t on a Monday opening due to work or other reasons, he said.
“We will be looking at all facets of a Saturday opening, including participation,” Lau said. “We also will be doing an extensive survey after this year’s hunting season to gauge how people including hunters feel about the Saturday opening.”
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .