Pennsylvania’s deer rifle season moved to Saturday after Thanksgiving
After more than 50 years of having the first day of deer rifle season start the Monday after Thanksgiving, the Pennsylvania Game Commission gave final approval to move opening day up to Saturday after the holiday.
The board Tuesday voted 5-3 to approve the change. The commission gave a tentative nod to the measure in January.
The first day of the 2019 rifle deer season will be Nov. 30. Rifle season for hunting deer in the state has started the Monday after Thanksgiving since 1963.
Supporters of the change believe a Saturday opener could increase interest in hunting.
Jim Bumar, retired Latrobe police chief and an avid hunter, said he would have rather seen the game commission open hunting on Sundays.
“It will certainly make hunting more convenient to people who can’t take off Mondays. But I don’t see it having that much of an impact,” said Bumar of Latrobe.
Opponents have maintained opening day beginning Saturday will interfere with hunting camp traditions and complicate travel during the holiday weekend.
Nathan Carey, owner of Bullseye Firearms in New Alexandria, said adding an extra day to the deer hunting season will certainly give his business a boost. But he added the move could hurt “the small mom-and-pop stores and restaurants in rural areas who depended on the weekend business when hunters were opening their camps.”
“Now, they’ll be out there hunting on Saturdays instead of shopping for their camps. To tell you the truth, most of the people I’ve heard talking about the deer season expansion were hoping they’d just permit Sunday hunting,” Carey said.
The president of the Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League initially supported the change but ultimately came to oppose it — for many of the same reasons Carey cited.
“I am not very pleased with the outcome,” said Klint Macro of Plum.
When the change was proposed, Macro said it could generate more interest in hunting. But after consulting with other outdoorsmen and hunting groups in the region, the league wrote the game commission to oppose moving the start of the season up two days.
“It is the major consensus that Pennsylvania sportsmen and sportswomen are quite opposed to this change,” Macro wrote.
He cited the inconvenience because of Thanksgiving holiday travel, Black Friday shopping and the impact the change would have on those who hunt in the state’s northern tier.
The change would hurt businesses in that area, which includes Clarion, Cameron, Forest, Elk, McKean, Potter, Warren and Venango counties, where the population increases during annual hunting seasons, Macro wrote.
“I spent my entire childhood in Cameron County. I know from growing up in Driftwood and Sinnemahoning, ‘locals’ offering pancake breakfasts, church dinners and other services to ‘campers’ is one of the biggest revenue periods of the year,” he wrote. “The Saturday move would essentially eliminate two days of vital income opportunities for much of the people who depend on ‘hunter revenue’ for their livelihood.”
He told the game commission that dismissing those issues “would be a monumental mistake and show a great lack of compassion and sportsmanship.”
The change also plays into what Macro called a “long-term plan to erode our proud Pennsylvania sportsmen’s heritage.”
The move will eliminate the need for schools and businesses to view the first day of deer season as a holiday. Although the move was made in part because of this, the change could ultimately make it tougher for some to hunt, especially on the Saturday of an already busy holiday weekend, Macro said.
While some believe the move will be followed with legalization of Sunday hunting, game commission officials have repeatedly denied that rumor.