The Pennsylvania Game Commission gave deer hunters more time afield when the board added an extra day to the fall archery season.
In the future, rifle deer hunters could get more time as well.
After the board agreed to move the end of the fall archery season to Monday, Nov. 12 — which is Veterans Day — commissioner James Daley said a change from the traditional Monday opener of the rifle deer season may be on the horizon as well.
Daley said the conversation to switch the opener to the preceding Saturday could take place next year, but the mention of the idea generated plenty of discussion during last Tuesday’s quarterly meeting.
Game Commission surveys, Daley said, indicate that hunters want to keep the Monday opening day. But those surveys generally target one segment of the hunting population — older hunters — according to Daley. He believes the generation of hunters younger than 40 would be in favor of a Saturday opener.
“I think it makes sense,” Daley said of the idea. “Just because (Monday opening day) it’s a tradition doesn’t mean you have to keep it.
“If it’s an inhibition to us being able to offer hunting, why are we keeping it?”
Several commissioners acknowledged the Saturday opener idea would be opposed by those who have hunting camps and utilize the weekend to get things ready for the Monday opening day of deer season. Daley said the camp tradition is on the decline, and commissioner Brian Hoover added the Friday after Thanksgiving is a holiday for most, so camp owners would still have a free day before the Saturday opening day.
Hoover also agreed with Daley that a Saturday opener would appeal to younger hunters who can’t take Monday off from work.
“Everyone like the status quo and no one likes to see change,” Hoover said regarding potential opposition to the idea from older hunters.
As far as overall season length if Saturday were to become the opening day, Daley said he didn’t think it would have to be shortened. He added there might be an increase in hunters, and any resulting hike in the deer harvest can be managed by antlerless license allocations.
In other business …
The board approved a motion to exempt some senior lifetime license holders from having to purchase a pheasant permit in 2018-19. The move applies to any Pennsylvania hunter who held a senior lifetime hunting or combination license prior to May 13, 2017.
The pheasant permit was created last year as a way to help offset the costs of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s pheasant propagation program. In its first year, the $26.90 permit was required for all adult and senior pheasant hunters, including senior lifetime license buyers.
The requirement for a permit officially became regulation on May 13, 2017. Nearly 43,000 hunters purchased a permit, including about 4,300 senior lifetime license buyers, and the sales generated $1.1 million.
Adult pheasant hunters still will need to purchase the permit; junior pheasant hunters will need a free permit in 2018-19.
Daley said improvements in the way the agency raises pheasants — mainly by purchasing chicks rather than hatching them from eggs — has resulted in a cost reduction that will more than compensate for lost revenue now that senior hunters won’t need to purchase a permit.
“We had a lot of comment from senior hunters on this,” he said. “If we hadn’t been able to reduce the price of raising pheasants, I don’t think you would’ve seen this.”
The agency expects to increase pheasant production this year to 220,000. According to Bob Boyd, assistant director of the Bureau of Wildlife Management, the total cost of the pheasant program is $2.3 million, down from $4.7 million last hunting season. It costs the agency approximately $10 to raise a pheasant, down from $20 in past years. Boyd also said that by purchasing chicks they can better determine the sex ratio of the pheasants that are stocked. Plans for the upcoming hunting season call for 75 percent males and 25 percent female.
The board reaffirmed its support of legislative action that would allow for expanded Sunday hunting opportunities.
The resolution adopted by the board is in response to a direct request from the nonprofit group Hunters United for Sunday Hunting, a representative of which testified to the board on Monday.
The resolution is at least the third the Board of Game Commissioners has adopted over the years in support of expanded Sunday hunting. The board’s support has remained consistent through the regular turnover of commissioners due to terms expiring and replacements being appointed.
No wind turbines on game lands
The Game Commission over the years has received 19 proposals develop wind energy on state game lands. All have been denied, due to potential adverse impacts on wildlife.
On Tuesday, the Board of Game Commissioners adopted a resolution declaring a moratorium on all future wind energy development on state game lands.
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky