The Pennsylvania deer archery season began on October 1. Photo by Mark Nale | for the gazette
In recent years, Pennsylvania hunters have seen many changes in season start dates, length, and rules. Seasons and baggage limits for the fall are usually discussed and voted on at the commission’s January meeting.
Due to vacancies on the Board of Gaming Commissioners, there was no quorum in January, so no official voting could take place. Consequently, the same bag and season cap structure that was in place for the 2021-22 license year will be in place for 2022-23.
Only a few changes affect this year’s seasons, none of which affect Center County.
The resident Canada pigeon and goose seasons have started since September 1. The Canada goose early season ended on September 24, but will reopen on October 22. Squirrel season started on September 10 and ends on November 25.
One of the seasons with the highest participation rates is the deer archery season, which began on October 1 and runs through November 18. Although the season lasts seven weeks, many archery hunters concentrate their hunt during the rutting season, which peaks in November.
Pheasant, rabbit and grouse seasons are scheduled to start on October 15. State Game Land 333 is the only hunting ground in the area that contains extensive fields, pastures, and old orchards. It is the only SGL area that is teeming with ring-necked pheasants. From before the Oct. 15 opening through early January, the Game Commission will be stocking pheasants nearly every week, totaling more than 4,300 pheasants at SGL 333. This hunting land, former land of the Rockview Correctional Institution, from the Shiloh Road I-99 exit.
Due to the impact of West Nile virus on grouse, most of the huntable populations are along the Allegheny Front. A suitable habitat in SGL 33 and 60 are the best bets.
Hunters have been reporting turkey sightings throughout this area, indicating a robust local population, likely higher than last fall. Like last year, rifles and pistols, except muzzleloaders, are not allowed during the fall turkey season.
Five different seasonal structures occur in Pennsylvania, based on the health of the turkey population in particular WMUs. The central county is divided into two of the different season lengths. WMU 2G (County Center North of I-80) has a season from October 29 to November 12. WMU 4D (County Center south of I-80) has a shorter season: October 29-November 5. Additionally, Units 5A, 5C, and 5D are closed to the fall turkey hunt. Be sure to check the Hunting and Trapping Compendium for the length of the season before you head out.
There are five different bear seasons in Center County. Archery bear season begins October 15 and ends November 5. The muzzleloading season also starts on October 15, but ends after one week on October 22. The regular firearms season runs from November 19-22 and includes a Sunday. Center County, south of I-80 (WMU 4D), also has an extended bear season, from November 26 to December 3. Finally, a special firearms season will be held October 20-22 for junior and senior license holders, active-duty military, and certain disabled permit holders.
Pennsylvania has an estimated black bear population of 16,000, which is down from a high of 20,000 just a few years ago. Some hunters worry that the additional seasons, particularly the October muzzleloader season, have put too much pressure on the population and are responsible for the decline. Hunters shot 3,659 bears in Pennsylvania last fall.
The entire state has a simultaneous 14-day deer season, which begins on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (November 26) and ends on December 10. Both antlerless and antlerless deer (with proper licenses) may be hunted any day during the season.
Hunting foxes, coyotes and ravens have long been allowed on Sundays during their respective seasons. In addition, three Sundays it is open for the hunting of other species. On Sunday, November 13, it is open for archery, deer, and small game. On November 20, part of bear season, it is also open for small game hunting. Finally, the second day of the regular gun deer season is Sunday, November 27. With a proper license, you can also hunt bears that day at 12 wildlife management units, including WMU 4D, which includes Central County south of I-80. .
Youth and Mentored Junior Hunters have special early seasons for deer, bear, squirrel, pheasant, rabbit, and spring turkey. Consult the Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest or www.pgc.pa.gov for the exact dates.
Black-legged deer ticks appear to have two peak seasons in central Pennsylvania and we are about to enter the second peak. Be careful when you are in the field.