Last updated: February 19. 2013 11:14PM - 181 Views

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Tradition comes in many forms when it comes to deer hunting.

It can be seen in any rustic camp where generations of hunters gather to swap stories on the night before deer season. It's what gives us our lucky spots that we return to year after year, and tradition is a big reason why sons and daughters join their parents afield when they are of age.

And when it comes to Pennsylvania deer hunting, the biggest tradition is about a day.


All hunters, and many non-hunters, know that the rifle deer season opens on the Monday after Thanksgiving. We mark it on our calendars, schedule our vacations around it and prioritize it as a day when the only thing that matters is hunting.

It's a tradition that shouldn't be changed.

Several commissioners on the Pennsylvania Game Commission board are considering such a change, however, and they have directed agency staff to look into the impacts of moving the first day of deer season to Saturday.

Tradition aside, it's a bad move.

Aside from opening day, both Saturdays during the two-week rifle deer season result in the highest percentage of the overall harvest. Adding a third Saturday to the season will obviously increase the harvest, and in some areas deer numbers simply can't withstand another high pressure day.

Sure, a Saturday opener would probably attract more hunters to the woods, but it would also result in killing more deer.

Is that a risk worth taking?

When it comes to the Monday opener, tradition works both for hunters and deer.

The Saturday opener idea was kicked around during the commissioner's working group meeting last week, and it wasn't the only deer season change discussed.

Adding a week to the archery season – which is already six weeks long, was also brought up.

Like the Saturday opener, it's not a good idea.

Right now, a hunter who buys an archery, muzzleloader and an antlerless license can hunt deer for 73 days from Sept. 29 to Jan. 12 with only a few weeks off. If that hunter is a junior or senior license holder, add three more days to the total with the three-day October antlerless season.

The fall archery season alone runs from Sept. 29 to Nov. 12 – that's 38 days including seven Saturdays.

Adding another week to archery season – either at the beginning or end, is simply excessive. If it's added at the beginning of the season, it will result in more bucks being taken before they can breed. Add another week at the end, and it could magnify the harvest even more as the rut gets into full swing and bucks become more vulnerable.

There's another ramification to consider as well, one that was brought up by commissioner Ronald Weaner. He cautioned that expanding the fall archery season could upset the state's largest segment of deer hunters – those who hunt strictly during the two-week rifle season.

It's something to consider since rifle hunters drive license sales and the deer harvest more than any other group. With license sales declining, is this really a good time to alienate the group of hunters that make up the core of license buyers?

When it comes to deer hunting and management, the priority needs to be the resource – deer.

A Saturday opener and a seventh week of archery season may benefit us, but that's not what matters most.

Let's stick to tradition when it comes to rifle season and keep archery season at six weeks.

We have enough time to hunt.

Tom Venesky covers the outdoors for The Times Leader.

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